AlcoHOLidays | St Patrick’s Day | Sweet Irish Coffee


jwalker_sweetirishcoffeeOn St Patrick’s Day, everybody has a touch of the Irish in them!

Granted, the day has devolved (in many areas, including my own college-anchored town) into an excuse to drink watered-down, green-tinted beer for a ridiculously long time. It’ll be interesting to see if that is at all curbed by March 17 falling on a Sunday this year, but I have my doubts.

As most folks know, St Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to the pagan Irish. Though we think of green as the natural color for St Patrick’s Day, originally the color most associated with him was blue. But (probably) because the story goes he used a shamrock to teach the idea of the trinity, so more and more people took to wearing shamrocks on his feast day, and it just sort of took off from there.

While beer, especially Guinness, is a more common drink for St Paddy’s Day (and, yes, it is spelled with d’s, not t’s, in deference to the Irish spelling of Pádraig), Irish whiskey is pretty popular, too.

One of the most excellent ways to drink Irish whiskey (if you don’t fancy it straight), is in the popular after dinner treat: Irish Coffee.

To see an really impressive way to make Irish Coffee en masse, check out this video courtesy of Concannon Irish Whiskey:

(Direct link for the feed readers: How to Make Irish Coffee)

Some  recipes for Irish Coffee I’ve seen call for only the whiskey and the coffee–no sugar, no cream. That just makes me shudder. In fact, after making one like that (but with the sugar cubes) it was still too bitter for my liking. I like my coffee flavored and sweet, with or without the alcohol, so here’s my take on this classic.

Sweet Irish Coffee

3 Sugar Cubes
4 oz Coffee, brewed strong
1 oz Irish Whiskey
1/2 oz Chocolate Liqueur
1 spoonful Vanilla Ice Cream

Prepare your Irish Coffee glass by filling it with hot water as the coffee brews. When the coffee is ready, pour out the water and add the sugar cubes and coffee to the mug, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the Irish whiskey and chocolate liqueur and top with a spoonful of ice cream.

Our local ice cream shop serves an affogato–a shot of espresso poured over a scoop of their sweet cream ice cream–which served as a partial inspiration for today’s twist on an old stand-by. Whipping heavy cream isn’t particularly difficult, but I had some lactose-free Breyers vanilla in the freezer, so I thought I’d give it a try as a substitute. For the whiskey I used Concannon Irish Whiskey (that I reviewed on Tuesday) and for the chocolate liqueur I, of course, used Godiva. The resulting drink is still a strong Irish Coffee but with a sweeter edge making it perfect for after a meal.

I had to search my local Cost Plus World Market to find where they’d hidden the Irish Coffee glasses, and the smallest I could find actually hold 8 oz, but we’ll just let that slide, right? The reason for pre-warming the glass is two-fold. First, just like chilling a glass for a cold drink, it helps the drink maintain its temperature. Second, coffee is very hot and while most coffee mugs can stand it, some of your more delicate glassware is not as tough and adding hot coffee to cold glass could lead to some bad breaks.

If you do choose to go out to your favorite watering hole this Sunday, make sure you have a designated driver or the number of a cab company handy. A DUI would sure put a damper on your day!


Technicolor Food: Think Before You Eat


For St Patrick’s Day, it’s not just people who will celebrate by wearing ‘o the green, food will be taking on a decidedly different hue.

Image by SteveFE via (edited by me)

Image by SteveFE via (edited by me)

Green beer is only the beginning.

It seems like green got an early start with many people celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday last weekend, there were lots of versions of green eggs (with or without the ham) popping up. I’ve seen green velvet cake on Pinterest, but at least it’s a change from the rainbow cakes featuring layer upon layer of technicolor batter. And that before we even get to the cakes, cupcakes, and cookies dripping with green icing.

We eat with our eyes, it’s true. And a great way to insure maximum nutrition is to have many colors on your plate. So I suppose it’s no surprise that we’re drawn to these technicolor foods: they’re meant to be festive, after all.

Yes, back in my cake-decorating days I dealt my share of vibrantly colored cakes and pastries. I used to love red velvet cake before I made my first one from scratch only to cringe at the 2 bottles of liquid dye it takes to achieve that rich, red color. These days all I can taste is the chemical bitterness, not the lightly-chocolate cake underneath.

Since putting away my decorating tools I definitely prefer simpler foods, in their rich, natural hues, to overly decorated sweets. Lately I’ve spent so much time reading labels, it’s clear that avoiding artificial colorings completely is unreasonable, it’s one thing to allow a little bit here and there to dumping the stuff into our food on our own.

Which brings us back to the point of my ramblings: there are plenty of green things to eat without resorting to food coloring!

For instance, in the green (deviled) eggs media maven Tori Spelling served up last week, instead of using green food coloring in the egg mixture, blend in a bit of pesto to add both color and flavor. I’m not a huge fan of green smoothies, but that’s another way to get some natural green into your diet–festive and healthy! Spinach and kale–common elements in those smoothies–can be added to many dishes to add some color. And for sweets, consider the flavor and color of mint to guide your choices.

Of course, green isn’t the only color abused so heinously. With Easter coming up, you might be looking for other creative colors to grace your table. If you want a bright yellow dish, try adding turmeric to a sauce or marinade. Carrots and sweet potatoes both make adding some orange to your meal simple as a quick steam. Pink can be achieved through pomegranate or cherry juices, as well as beets for a deeper, almost-purple color. Blue is the toughest color to get, but mostly because a vivid blue is generally a sign of mold in food–not something you really want. Even blueberries stain more greenish-purple than blue.

That said, the actual color of foods isn’t the only avenue to explore for a festive air. Colorful plates and napkins can dress up everyday foods, and a pretty cellophane bag or some colorful ribbon can dress up sweets in their natural state.

So pin as many felt or fabric clovers to yourself as you want, but resist the temptation of the watered down green beer being served this weekend (or ever) and consider finding the green (and other colors on your plate) in a more natural state.

Episode 11: Everybody’s Irish!


Just in time for St Patrick’s Day, here’s a rollicking set of songs to get you in the mood.

Pour Me Another—Doug Folkins
Beer, Beer, Beer—Brobdingnagian Bards
3 by the Blaggards:
Drunken Sailor, Wild Rover, Botany Bay
The Whiskey Never Lies—Sligo Rags
3 by Marc Gunn:
The Moonshiner, Johnny Jump Up, Kilted For Her Pleasure
[kilts are more Scottish than Irish, but it’s still a fun song to include]
3 by Great Big Sea:
The Mermaid, Concerning Charlie Horse, Cod Liver Oil
Irish Rover—Murder the Stout
Cumberland Ghosts–Rich and Jim
Irish Girl—Second to None


Random Appetites: Slainte!


Happy St Patrick’s Day, folks! The day where even if you’re not Irish, you are!

When you think Irish food, most people think of corned beef and cabbage. Did you know, though, that this is only eaten in 2 counties (Dublin and Cork) and more a modern association at that? Be that as  it may, it still tastes awfully good so you might as well indulge whenever you’ve got a reason. And, according to a recent Iron Chef America episode, if you’ve got a pressure cooker you can have a very tender corned beef brisket in about an hour! (So there’s still time if you didn’t set up the slow-cooker this morning–my preferred way of “roasting” a brisket with a minimum of fuss.)

An unfortunate trend in many places, on St Patrick’s Day, is to serve unnaturally green beverages. If you want to drink beer today, avoid the cheap, food-colored stuff and have a Guinness or Killian’s Red or something that’s at least remotely Irish and tasty. If mixed drinks are your bag, have a good shot of Bailey’s over ice as you toast your neighbors “Slainte!” (pronounced, at least so I’ve heard, SLAN-tah and means “[to your] good health”) But please, for the love of Mike, stay away from the green creme de menthe!