Lá Fhéile Pádraig shona dhaoibh!

And in case you’re not an Irish speaker, a very happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!

The flag of the Four Provinces of Ireland

The flag of the Four Provinces of Ireland

I don’t suppose I could have gotten away with not making a post today, although I wasn’t particularly planning one. I did get a big of a nudge while talking to an Irish cow-orker this morning (and when another cow-orker passed us, he said, “You two shouldn’t even be allowed to talk to each other today … critical mass!”), while we chatted about “Father Ted” and shouted “FECK!” and “ARSE!” and “DRINK!” to each other, as is our wont.

Those of you who’ve seen my previous years’ St. Patrick’s Day posts will remember my own rules for the day:

1. NO GREEN BEER. I really shouldn’t even have to explain that.

I remember back in gradual school my mentor and favorite teacher Ian Conner, a native Glaswegian, overheard one of my fellow students on St. Patrick’s Day say that he was planning to spend the evening going to a local bar to drink green beer. “Is that what St. Patrick’s Day means to you?” asked Ian. “That’s not what St. Patrick’s Day means to me. What St. Patrick’s Day means to be is starting at noon at the closet Irish pub to where you live, having some whiskey, then moving on to the next one, having another whiskey, and continuing thusly throughout the day!” One of many thousands of anecdotes which add up to a truly great teacher.

2. Wear the green, but keep it subtle. I find that Irish people don’t particularly wear a lot of green anyway — one fun game I’ve played in Dublin with my Irish friends is “Spot the Yank,” terribly easy when there are so many Americans festooned in bright fluorescent kelly green, especially green mesh-back baseball caps with a shamrock and the word “IRELAND” on the front, plus the Bermuda shorts of course. Today my socks are a light forest green, and that’s perfectly nice.

Of course, given the Irish flag has green, white and orange (representing the nationalist tradition, the Orange Protestant tradition and the hope for peace between them), you could wear a bit of each. Then again, Ian continued his story … “On St. Patrick’s Day, my grandfather — a fierce adherent to the Church of Scotland — used to pin orange ribbons to his clothing and go through the Catholic sections of town, shouting anti-Papist slogans.” No need to go quite that far.

A clever, amusing t-shirt will do fine too. I have a few from a shop in Spiddal, Co. Galway called An Spáilpín Fánach featuring clever or witty sayings in Irish (I like the one I have that says, “Ná cuir céist orm — níl fhois agam!” or, “Don’t ask me, I don’t know!”) and some not-so-clever (such as the ubiquitous “Póg mo thóin”). I’ve seen a few other good ones around — “I ♥ Irish boys” is an old favorite, “Craic dealer” made me laugh, and perhaps the best one ever is the one that said, in a rather recognizeable typeface and layout …

f       c       e       k
the irish connection


3. Stay out of Irish pubs/bars. Seriously. Find a great Irish bar and go any other day of the year. On St. Patrick’s Day it’s strictly amateur hour, and unless you like being packed like sardines in green beer, drunk collge students, the Dropkick feckin’ Murphys and lots of police sobriety checkpoints there and back, stay home. Well, unless you’re actually in Ireland, where avoiding an Irish pub might be a bit more difficult.

4. Drink Irish whiskey. It is good. It is very good. And the whole “Catholic whiskey / Protestant whiskey” thing is bullshit — don’t buy into it. Nobody in Ireland would. If you like Bushmills (and I do, especially their single malts and aged expressions like the 16- and 21-year), then do so! Black Bush is lovely stuff and quite affordable.

My own preference goes toward the 12-year expressions of John Powers and Jameson’s, plus Tullamore Dew, all good for sipping or mixing. I also adore Redbreast, the only pure pot still Irish whiskey we’re getting over here now, and I’ve recently fallen in love with Tyrconnell Single Malt, one of the many wonderful products of the Cooley Distillery in Co. Louth, the only truly independent Irish whiskey distillery (Midleton in Cork is owned by Pernod-Ricard, and Bushmills by Diageo). The Tyrconnell line also includes whiskies finished in sherry, madeira and port barrels — I’ve only had one of them so far, but it was wonderful, a great balance between maltiness and strawberry-fruit sweetness.

I’m also a fan of Kilbeggan, another Cooley product. Wesly and I visited the Old Kilbeggan distillery about six years ago and enjoyed seeing the place. In ’07 the folks at Cooley actually got working pot stills going at Kilbeggan again, with the plan to actually have them produce whiskey again after 54 years. Kilbeggan’s lovely, with notes of raisins and vanilla. Interesting tidbit — from 1843 until its closure in 1954 the distillery was called Locke’s, after the man who purchased it and whose family ran it for over a century. His name will be familiar to those of us who are “Lost” fans … John Locke. (As far as I know, that John Locke’s body is not currently inhabited by a smoke monster.) Locke’s 8-year single malt is still produced by Cooley — it’s a blended single malt, which does include a bit of peated whiskey, so actually Locke’s has a touch of the smoke monster after all.

5. Drink Irish whiskey cocktails. We’ll be doing numbers 4 and 5 tonight, at home.

Here are the 10 Irish whiskey-based cocktails currently in my list; doubtless you can find more. I’m favoring the Tipperary tonight, I think; Gaz Regan wrote about it again today in the San Francisco Chronicle.

A few Irish whiskey cocktails to peruse

Bushmills in the Afternoon
Irish (Channel) Coffee
Irish Whiskey Toddy
James Joyce Cocktail
St. Dominic’s Preview
The Swell Season

6. Listen to Irish music. You’re always good with The Pogues (even though most of them aren’t from Ireland), but your best bet are the modern classics of Planxty and The Bothy Band. Go on iTunes or eMusic and get some now if you haven’t already. You’ll thank me later.

And have a happy and safe, snake-free St. Patrick’s Day!