Irish whiskey has had a turbulent history. Having once outshone its rival, Scotch whisky, in terms of both reputation and in sheer volume of the stuff produced, Irish whiskey went from being the pre-eminent whiskey of the world to almost disappearing. That’s thanks to a combination of teetotalling temperance types, taxes, a failure to innovate, and the pains of Prohibtion. In 1887, some 28 distilleries operated in Ireland, and in 1900, the industry was producing 12 million cases of whiskey a year. This would decline, as the number of distilleries shrank to just two by the 1970’s, producing just 500,000-odd cases a year.
But things, these days, are looking up. Led by the powerhouse that is Jameson, Irish whiskey has come back into vogue across the world. Two distilleries became three, when John Teeling opened the Cooley Distillery in 1987, and grew to four when Kilbeggan restarted whiskey production in 2007. That number has grown to 16 distilleries operating in Ireland, with plans for more than a dozen more on the way.
So it’s safe to say, Irish whiskey is back. But, now that you’ve got loads of Irish whiskey options to play with, how do you play with them?
There’s a dearth of classic recipes that single out Irish whiskey. Harry Johnson lists a few back in his Bartenders’ Manual — the Black Thorn (picture left) being one of them. Will Tarling’s Approved Cocktails of 1937 — a handbook for the UK Bartenders Guild — has a few, too, but they tend to be slight variations on the whiskey and sweet vermouth with bitters formula with an appropriately cringeworthy name: Emerald and Paddy being two which obviously call Irish whiskey — hell, there’s a Shamrock in there too.
Frank Meier’s book, The Artistry of Mixing Drinks, pulls together a few recipes, too. He’s got an Irish Whiskey Fizz which is as it sounds: Irish whiskey, lemon, egg white, and soda, (which becomes an Irish Rose with the addition of grenadine); he’s got a Shamrock in there, too.
But again, most of them don’t get away from that whiskey and vermouth marriage; perhaps, if you don’t mind us suggesting, it’s time for you to get to work on the next Irish whiskey classics.
- 30ml Jameson Black Barrel
- 30ml dry vermouth
- 5ml Pernod Absinthe
- 3 dashes Boker’s Bitters
Stir down and serve up in a cocktail glass.
Adapted from Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual
- 30ml Glendalough Double Barrel Irish Whiskey
- 30ml Scotch whisky
- 20ml lemon juice
- 15ml Orgeat
Shake briskly and double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
- 40ml Tullamore D.E.W. Special Reserve 12 Year Old
- 20ml sweet vermouth
- 10ml Green Chartreuse
Stir down all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Adapted from The Savoy Cocktail Book
- 45ml Jameson Caskmates
- 120ml black coffee
- 15ml 2:1 demerara sugar syrup
In a pre-heated sour glass, add whiskey, coffee, demerara syrup. Float double cream on top and grate fresh nutmeg on
top of cream.
Adapted from a Dead Rabbit, NYC recipe