Tipsy-Turvy: A celebration of Irish spirits and drinks

We look through our green-tinged glasses at some Irish spirits and drinks, as well as some cocktails you can make at home to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Photo: Filepic

Since the International Irish Whiskey Day took place last week (March 3), and St Patrick’s Day is happening next week (March 17), I decided to take another look into the world of Irish spirits, beers and cocktails. The last time I wrote about Irish drinks was about nine years ago, so I reckon it’s time for a refresher.

When it comes to Irish drinks, the first name that comes to mind is usually Guinness, the iconic black beer that is available worldwide and even brewed locally in numerous countries, including Malaysia.

First brewed in Dublin way back in 1759, Guinness gets its iconic dark colour (it’s not really black, just very deep ruby red) from the roasted unmalted barley used in the brewing process.

In conjunction with St Patrick’s Day, Guinness Malaysia recently launched a campaign celebrating the missed occasions that have occurred throughout this past year because of the pandemic, featuring exclusive Guinness St Patrick’s Celebration Kits for fans of the brand (visit the Guinness social media pages for more information).

When it comes to Irish drinks, it's hard to ignore the beer icon that is Guinness. —HandoutWhen it comes to Irish drinks, it's hard to ignore the beer icon that is Guinness. —Handout

Another iconic Irish brand is Bailey’s Irish Cream, which is a cream liqueur made primarily with cream and Irish whiskey. While it is common to drink it neat over ice or with some milk, Bailey’s is also an essential ingredient in cocktails like the Mudslide (equal parts vodka, Bailey’s and coffee liqueur, shaken with ice or served on the rocks) and the B-52 cocktail shooter (which layers Kahlua, Bailey’s and Grand Marnier on top of one another in a shotglass).

Speaking of Irish whiskey, here is a quick explanation of the differences between Scotch and this fast-growing category.

Irish whiskey must be distilled and aged in Ireland (regardless of whether it’s the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland). Like Scotch, the spirit is distilled from a mash of cereal grains, ranging from malted barley, corn, wheat, and aged at least three years in wooden casks.

However, while Scotch is usually distilled only twice (though there are exceptions), Irish whiskey is typically triple distilled.

There is also a whiskey style that is uniquely Irish – single pot still. As the name suggests, this is Irish whiskey that has been made in a pot still at a single distillery, from a mash that contains both malted barley and fresh unmalted barley, as opposed to single malt, which only uses malted barley.

While single pot still whiskey is arguably the most famous and sought-after style of Irish whiskey, a huge majority of the Irish whiskey market is dominated by blended Irish whiskies like Jameson, Tullamore Dew, and so on.Irish-themed cocktails

There are plenty of Irish-themed cocktails out there, though not every one of them are green. Here are some of my personal favourites:

Irish coffee

Irish CoffeeIrish CoffeeHow to make it: Stir 2 parts Irish whiskey with 4 parts hot brewed black coffee, add sugar to taste, and then layer a head of cream on top so that it looks like a pint of Guinness.

It was invented in the 1940s, at a place called Foynes in Ireland, where Pan American passenger planes used to stop before making their way across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States.

The creator is a chef named Joe Sheridan, who would serve passengers a cup of coffee with a shot of Irish whiskey added to it. When asked what sort of coffee it was, he would reply that it was Irish coffee.

Irish Tea Party

How to make it: Build one part Jameson Irish Whiskey and two parts green tea (sweetened or otherwise) over ice in a glass coated with absinthe.

A recipe apparently created by Jameson, whiskey and tea go really well together (which is probably why it’s so popular in Asia as a mixer for whiskey), and the absinthe gives a lovely anise hint to the drink that is quite pleasant.


How to make it: Stir two parts Irish whiskey, one part Green Chartreuse liqueur and one part sweet vermouth over ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

An official recipe on the International Bar Association’s (IBA) list of classic cocktails, this is arguably one of my favourite Irish whisky recipes, as the sweeter fruity notes of the whiskey is accentuated by the herbal notes of the Chartreuse. It can be slightly on the sweeter side, so feel free to add a little bit more whiskey, or even a dash of bitters to get a better balance.

The Irish Cocktail

The Irish Tea PartyThe Irish Tea PartyHow to make it: Mix one and a half parts Irish Whiskey, half part Maraschino liqueur, 1/4 part triple sec, one dash absinthe, and one dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters in a stirring glass, stir over ice, strain into a cocktail glass and spray with orange zest.

Another surprisingly pleasant spirit-forward Irish whiskey cocktail I recently discovered, in which the dominant flavour comes from the whiskey but with little bursts of flavours from all the other ingredients, especially the maraschino.

Jameson, Ginger & Lime

How to make it: Add 50ml Jameson Irish Whiskey and one lime wedge into a highball glass with ice, and top with ginger ale.

There is a reason why Jameson is one of the best-known Irish whiskey brands in the world. Its signature green-bottled expression is a great session whiskey and makes for a good base for cocktails as well.

This is one of the whiskey’s signature serves, with the ginger ale and lime combining with the whiskey for a refreshing cross between a Whisky Highball and a Dark & Stormy.

Black Velvet

ShamrockShamrockHow to make it: Mix Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and cider in a glass at a 3:1 ratio.

While I usually prefer to drink Guinness on its own, it is also the base for a number of iconic beer cocktails. The Black Velvet is usually made with stout and champagne, but the stout and cider combo is also known as a Black Velvet in Britain and Ireland.


How to make it: Mix two parts Irish whiskey, two parts dry vermouth, one part green Chartreuse, and one part Giffard Menthe-Pastille mint liqueur in a stirring glass, stir over ice and strain.

What’s St Patrick’s Day without a green-coloured drink, eh? Herbal, minty, malty and dry all at once, this is a lovely spirit-forward drink that also makes for a decent after-meal dessert drink.

Michael Cheang can’t resist a cocktail made with Irish whiskey. Contact him on Facebook, Instagram (@MyTipsyTurvy) or Twitter (@MichaelCheang).

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