Spirits drinkers owe a debt of gratitude to the Irish. Back in 1830, Dubliner Aeneas Coffey invented the modern distillation method that remains dominant today for crafting everything from Irish whiskey to gin, rum, and even vodka.
Coffey (perhaps a relation to the author, in the annals of time), revolutionized the way spirits were made and consumed. These days, the Irish liquor industry is once again taking the forefront, from a flood of new whiskeys hitting the market to unique offerings like Irish gin.
“Typically, anything that comes out Irish-wise, we carry,” at least at the start, says Michael Conneely, owner of The Peddler’s Daughter.
Conneely’s drink menu includes a cocktail made with Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin called “Jimmy Will Do It.” Named for a bartender at their Nashua location, a light fruity mix of gin, ginger and cranberry. “With the lemon juice and ginger, it brings a little bit of fruitiness to the drink,” he says, noting that the gin itself has a typical juniper-forward flavor profile. “It’s very well balanced.”
Gin is having a moment all over Europe, and has made it across the pond. Other Irish gins include Glendalough Rose Gin, which gets color and aromatics from rose petals sourced from an Irish garden.
While the Ped, as regulars call it, is always open to bringing in new spirits from Ireland, they haven’t neglected the classic Irish whiskeys—they have 48 in their Nashua location, and 24 in Haverhill. Smaller producers and newcomers like Redbreast 12 year and Teeling Small Batch have a devoted following, especially among those who sip the spirit straight or with a big cube.
“One ice cube, and a drop of water on the side, is a traditional way to have it,” Conneely says. “Adding a small drop of water takes the edge off for a lot of people.”
At Port Tavern in Newburyport, they carry more than 25 whiskeys, including Teeling Single Malt, which has become a favorite of Port’s general manager Abigail Hannan. “It’s finished in wine casks, so you get some fruity notes,” she notes, adding that another special sipping whiskey is Midleton “Aged in oak casks, it’s deliciously smooth,” she says.
At $40 a pour, Midleton is not for everyone, but outside that rarified air, there are a lot of selections for sipping and cocktails. Port uses Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey mixed with red vermouth in its Port Manhattan and another Jameson is mixed with Bailey’s Irish Cream for their Cold Brew Irish Coffee. With its many expressions, “Jameson is our number one seller,” Hannan says. “We buy that in bulk, because we sell so much of it.”
Jameson is also the star in a cocktail at The Irish Cottage in Methuen, where it stands in for vodka in the Irish Mule. The cocktail took off when it first appeared on the menu a few years ago, says Danielle Rice, manager at The Irish Cottage, noting that Irish spirits in general—and whiskey in particular—can swap into a lot of classic cocktails. Try it in an Old Fashioned, or to warm up a cold night, a hot toddy, Rice advises. The mixture of Irish whiskey, lemon, clove and hot water would be perfect, especially if the St. Patrick’s Day festivities wind up outside again.
Of course, everyone has their fingers crossed that for the first time in two years, people will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in person, in a bar. All three taverns will have live music—and all three suggest arriving early if you want to secure a seat on the big day.
“We’re anticipating it to be pretty crazy,” says Port Tavern’s Hannan, noting that a chalkboard in their basement is frozen in time, with a countdown marking three days left until St. Patrick’s Day 2020 that no one had the heart to erase. “I think a lot of people will be out just happy to be out celebrating. …To say we’re excited is an understatement.”
Jimmy Will Do It
Peddler’s Daughter, Nashua and Haverhill
Makes one drink
1.5 oz. Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin
.5 oz. Ginger Liqueur
1 oz. Cranberry syrup
1 oz. Fresh lemon juice
Shake all ingredients in a tin with ice, then strain into a martini glass
The Irish Cottage, Methuen
Makes one drink
2.5 oz. Irish whiskey
6 oz. Ginger beer
1 oz. Lime juice
Build in a tall glass over ice.
Irish Cold Brew
Port Tavern, Newburyport
Makes one drink
1.5 oz. Jameson Cold Brew
.5 oz. Bailey’s Irish Cream
4 oz. Cold brew coffee
Shake until it gets frothy and foamy. Pour over into a pint glass filled with ice.