Bring on the amateur whiskey drinkers — St. Patrick's Day is this Friday. The city's annual pub crawl is a thing of the past, but there are still dozens of options for wetting your whistle with uisce beatha (Gaelic for "the water of life") in Memphis this weekend.
I must confess that I'm not a whiskey drinker, myself, thanks to an unpleasant experience I had after drinking most of a bottle on my own in my early 20s. Today, I can hardly touch the brown stuff, but I do take note of which bars stock good whiskey. In addition to my usual Midtown haunts (the Cove, Alchemy, and Beauty Shop/DKDC), Blind Bear, Mollie Fontaine Lounge, Flight, the Slider Inn, and Dirty Crow Inn have a wide variety of whiskies and bartenders who are well-versed in serving it.
Celtic Crossing, Memphis' epicenter for Irish whiskey, imports dozens of liquors from across the pond, with price points that range from a few dollars a shot to over $150 per bottle. And if whiskey's not your thing, beer — green, Guinness, and other varieties — will be flowing at Flying Saucer and Ghost River Brewery downtown, at the Casual Pint on South Highland, and at Patrick's Restaurant out East.
If you prefer to toast St. Paddy at home, I suggest that you move beyond a simple whiskey on the rocks. Finesse a drink like the Bitter Irishman, made with equal parts Bushmills single malt whiskey and Amaro Averna (a Sicilian herbal liqueur), lemon juice, and simple syrup. Or stir and strain the Emerald, which includes two ounces of whiskey (Jameson is recommended), an ounce of sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of orange bitters. Specifics for both cocktails can be found at SeriousEats.com.
Food & Wine magazine's website features recipes for two tantalizing whiskey-and-champagne cocktails. The Lady Irish combines Bushmills, sherry, grenadine, lemon juice, and simple syrup with champagne, while Cork County Bubbles blends Jameson, Chartreuse, lemon juice, and honey water with champagne.
As mentioned above, I'll eschew whiskey entirely. My favorite St. Patrick's Day indulgence is a homemade version of McDonald's seasonal favorite, the Shamrock Shake. The mint-flavored concoction, first introduced in 1970 and once introduced by the character Uncle O'Grimacey, is now making a comeback. Bypass the drive-thru and go straight to KitchenTreaty.com (after a stop at the liquor store) to make your own. The recipe calls for three pints of vanilla ice cream, four ounces of crème de menthe liquor, three ounces each of vodka and Baileys Irish Cream liqueur, and vanilla extract. Toss all the ingredients into a blender, then serve it up in two tall glasses for you and a friend. Topped with whipped cream and maraschino cherries, the boozy Shamrock Shake is fit for, well, the High Kings of Ireland.
If that's too cold for you, celebrate with an Irish coffee, which hails from County Limerick, where, according to legend, it was concocted by chef Joe Sheridan and served to a group of Americans disembarking from a Pan Am flying boat one winter night in the mid-1940s.
A travel writer from the San Francisco Chronicle helped import the drink to our shores a decade later, making Irish coffee a mainstay on the West Coast. Older variations abound in Austria, Denmark, and France, but the Irish made it official in 1988, when the National Standards Authority of Ireland introduced regulatory controls on the recipe. Start with black coffee, and then stir in Irish whiskey and a level teaspoon of sugar until fully dissolved. Pour in thick cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats atop the coffee. Drink, and if you don't have much planned for the day, repeat.