Ladies and gentlemen, a public service announcement. March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. And while plenty of people will commemorate this august occasion with copious amounts of booze, nowhere in the annals of Irish and faux-Irish history does it say that the beverages you consume must be mediocre, lame, or dyed a vividly unnatural hue. These establishments serve up top-flight versions of the beverages people clamor for on St. Patrick’s Day
It’s coffee, whiskey, and sugar (or brown sugar) topped with a peaked cap of whipped cream. The legend dates back to an airport coffee shop chef in County Limerick tasked with reviving a gaggle of tired, chilly, stranded Pan Am passengers. And perhaps the most famous local version can be found in the shadow of KeyArena, at uber-Irish pub T. S. McHugh’s (tsmchughs.com), though the recipe dates back to the former Jake O’Shaugh-nessy’s. A sugar cube and a jigger of John Powers Irish Whiskey get muddled in a hot glass, then poured over with freshly brewed Caffe Appassionato. Since opening in 1990, the bar has used Smith Brothers cream. It’s whipped to order, and the impressive 39 percent butterfat content delivers an air-spun topping that floats rather than sinking into the coffee.
Take a shot of Pappy Van Winkle or Willet or any other rye whiskey with a cult following and you’ll feel it burn its way down your esophagus. The Emerald Isle’s version tends to be softer and gentler, says Travis Stanley-Jones, whose bar, Mulleady’s Irish Pub in Magnolia (mulleadyspub.com), has a collection of Irish whiskies that numbers “in the low 40s”—one of the largest around. This gentle nature can make for a nondescript cocktail component but an easy-drinking solo player. And until a few years ago, most of it tasted the same. Stanley-Jones likens it to that era when all American white wine was oaky chardonnay, but now Ireland’s whiskey is starting to diversify in a major way. If you want to get better acquainted with these whiskies, Stanley-Jones recommends letting him pour you some Redbreast 12 Year, then move on to the cask strength version. Oh, and beware any Irish pub with more vodka than whiskey.
Irish Red Ale
Guinness aside, Ireland’s signature style of beer is all about malty, roasty flavors and a balanced burst of hops. Smithwick’s has become the standard-bearer for these coppery-colored ales, but Washington brewers make some impressive versions closer to home. Big Al Brewing (bigalbrewing.com) pours a light year-round version, while Silver City‘s Ridgetop Red (silvercitybrewery.com) runs slightly sweeter. Mukilteo brewery Diamond Knot (diamondknot.com) turns up the hops in its Slane’s Irish Red Ale, and if you ever see Sound Brewery‘s O’Regan’s Revenge (soundbrewery.com) emanating from a beer tap, seize that opportunity immediately.
Black Raven Brewing (blackravenbrewing.com) founder Beaux Bowman isn’t big on conforming to specific styles, but his Morrighan Stout is a nod to the Irish way of brewing—a bit on the dry side, with subtle notes of chocolate, caramel, some roasty flavors, and a dash of bitterness. It’s served on nitro in the brewery’s Redmond taproom so it feels extra soft, even creamy on the tongue. Sound like any other Irish stouts you’ve heard of? Maybe one that’s the top--selling beverage in Ireland? Morrighan generally only pours at Black Raven. But with an ABV of less than 5 percent, you can safely settle in for a few rounds.
Irish Car Bomb
Psych! This stout, Irish cream liqueur, and Irish whiskey confection is so not a traditional Irish drink. For the record, neither is green beer.
Published: March 2013