Hit up the Facebook page for Coole Swan Irish Cream Liqueur and you just may find yourself chatting with CEO Mary Sadlier. The small family-run company took on big brands with an Irish cream liqueur made from all-natural ingredients, initially as a way to improve cash flow at their family farm.
Her husband, Philip Brady, oversees the farm, which is just an hour north of Dublin. It’s home to about 200 dairy cows, grazing mostly on pasture and sleeping under the stars. And while Sadlier wouldn’t go so far as to say her Irish cream is a health product, she does note that high-quality cream has traditionally been seen as a memory aid in Ireland. It’s also a key binding agent for their liqueur, which is made with no bulking agents—meaning it is gluten-free as well.
“We use very different ingredients than most other cream liqueurs,” Sadlier says. In fact, they use just three: cream, fine white chocolate from Belgium, and high-quality Irish whiskey. “If Mother Nature didn’t make it, we don’t use it.”
Even the product’s name is an ode to nature. It is an homage to Coole Park, a nature retreat in Galway, Ireland, once owned by Lady Gregory, one of the great literary figures of the late 1800s. She hosted a who’s who of artists and writers at her tranquil estate, including William Butler Yeats, who penned his classic poem “The Wild Swans at Coole” while visiting.
“Yeats’s poem talks about the eternal beauty of nature,” Sadlier says, waxing poetic about Tatestown, the family’s dairy farm near the coast. Cows are milked twice a day, after feasting on lush green grass, and the cream generally travels from cow to liquor bottle in under 24 hours. “It’s a pretty efficient system,” says Sadlier, noting that a nearby river floods two or three times a year, delivering natural fertilizer to the pastures, so no chemical treatments are required to keep the grass growing.
The North Shore has been a great market for Coole Swan, which is available from Shubie’s in Marblehead in the east to Andover Liquors in the west, Sadlier says, adding that Bunratty Tavern in Reading is a favorite stop when she is in the area. “[Bunratty] has an Irish feel, and these guys are masters with a cocktail shaker—they can make Coole Swan literally step dance,” she says. Another Irish connection turned up at Leary’s Fine Wines & Spirits in Newburyport, where Sadlier got to chatting with Treasa O’Riordan, only to discover that she is friends with her mom in Ireland.
Sadlier’s favorite way to enjoy Coole Swan is “a nip straight from the fridge,” where the liquor is best stored once open. However, it is a versatile mixer in a wide variety of cocktails. Sadlier particularly enjoys the Coole Swan Espresso Martini at Salvatore’s in Andover, but notes that it plays well with everything from turmeric to lemongrass, not to mention a nice cup of coffee—hot at this time of year, or iced in the summertime.
Shades of Coole
This cocktail gains a slight green tint from the crème de menthe, making it a delightful St. Patrick’s Day tipple.
30 ml/1 oz. Coole Swan
10 ml/0.3 oz. Crème de menthe
10 ml/0.3 oz. Sambuca
Chocolate flakes and a mint leaf for garnish
Place the ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Pour into a glass of your choice, such as a coupe or a Coole Swan signature glass.
Sprinkle with chocolate flakes or a chocolate curl and a mint leaf.