What to drink on St. Patrick’s Day?

I recently received a marketing email saying that whatever one drinks on St. Patrick’s Day, “you better be sipping on something green.” It then went on to describe a cocktail made with tequila and Midori. Because nothing says Ireland like tequila and melon liqueur…

Personally I could care less about drinking green and am perfectly happy with good stout and Irish whiskey. For the latter, I’ve been fortunate over the last week to sample more than 20 Irish whiskeys as part of Lance Mayhew’s informal “tasting panel.” Lance provides a primer on Irish whiskey here and fellow taster Geoff Kleinman makes some great recommendations on his new blog, Drink Spirits.

If you’re in a cocktail mood, my favorite mixed drink with Irish whiskey is the Tipperary, made with Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Chartreuse. As a bonus Chartreuse does happen to be green, though the final drink won’t be.

Finally, there’s the elephant in the room, the extremely politically incorrect Irish Car Bomb. If you’re in a real Irish bar tonight you should not order one of these. Even so, I do have a soft spot for the drink, and judging by the number of search referrals this blog is getting for Irish Car Bombs today other people do too. Here’s photographic evidence that everybody loves an ICB. Or if you want to make this drink more sophisticated and stable, try the Defusion, a deconstructed version of the drink I served at Carlyle. Finally, if you really want to be adventurous, make it with Upright’s Oyster Stout. We tried it at Branch and it puts Guinness to shame.


Defusing the car bomb


Those of you who read my “guilty pleasures” Mixology Monday post know that I have a soft spot for the Irish car bomb. Sure, it’s got a politically incorrect name, it’s messy, it curdles if you don’t drink it fast enough, and it requires chugging a half-pint of Guinness, but it’s also tasty and fun. Even so, I’m not about to put it on my cocktail menu at a classy place like Carlyle. Well, not exactly…

The photo above shows a new dessert drink we’re calling a Defusion. The bottom layer is a mix of Jameson and Baileys, shaken over ice and strained. The top layer is a Guinness foam garnished with a little grated nutmeg. For obvious reasons we don’t use the words “car bomb” anywhere on the menu, but customers in the know will recognize the inspiration. If they don’t, they can still enjoy the drink on its own merits. (Considering that one of the first guys to order it was visiting from Ireland, I’m very happy with this decision!)


I came across beer foam while flipping through the Alinea cookbook, which describes an ale foam in one of its dishes. This immediately gave me the idea for the drink. Achatz’ foam technique wouldn’t work for me though. It’s fine for the coursed service at Alinea, but behind the bar I needed something I could prepare in advance and keep stable throughout the night.

Luckily I work with a talented chef who was able to help me out. I approached him with the idea and he suggested the following recipe for making Guinness foam:

1 can Guinness
4 oz half-and-half
2 leaves gelatin

Bloom the gelatin in cold water. Simmer the gelatin with a few ounces of Guinness to dissolve. Pour the mixture into a whipped cream dispenser along with the half-and-half and the rest of the Guinness. (Recommended: Reserve some Guinness for the chef.) Charge with one or two CO2 N2O cartridges, shake, and keep chilled.

The resulting foam is perfect for the bar. It keeps easily for several days and comes out with just the right firmness when chilled in an ice water bath. The taste is true to Guinness with just a little cream for sweetness.

To make the the drink you need:

1.5 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
.75 oz Baileys Irish Cream
Guinness foam

Shake the first two ingredients over ice and strain into a tall shot glass. Top with the foam, grate on nutmeg, and serve immediately with a demitasse spoon.

The drink is stable but the foam will melt, so it’s important to serve this quickly. It doesn’t have to be consumed quickly though, so unlike its rowdy cousin you won’t risk spilling this drink down your shirt while you chug. Take it slow, pinkies out.


My goodness my Guinness!

“Guinness needs your help!” reads the subject line on an email I received from the company today. I went to one of their “Guinness Believer” promotional events a few years ago — totally worth it for the free beer — so I get occasional mail from them. I assumed this was another message about their campaign urging people to petition Congress for official recognition of St. Patrick’s Day. Clever, but I’ve always hated its pernicious message that for an institution to be valuable it must be legitimized by government (cf. debate over same-sex marriage).

Happily, that’s not what the email was about. Here’s what it said:

As someone who enjoys great brands such as Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Captain Morgan, Johnnie Walker, Ketel One, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray, Guinness, Beaulieu Vineyard or Sterling Vineyards wines, you are a member of the Diageo family. As a member of our family, you need to be aware that in the coming months, lawmakers will be proposing tax increases that will put jobs in your community at risk and raise the cost of your favorite drink.

There’s a real price to pay when elected officials misguidedly try to replenish state budgets with regressive taxes that will hit us at a time when we are already being hit hard enough economically. These taxes will cause people like bartenders, waiters, waitresses and other folks who work hard every day in our community restaurants and hotels to lose their jobs. In fact, the last time they raised taxes on alcohol, $1.3 billion in wages were lost, while 98,000 people found themselves out of work.

Hardly sounds fair, does it? […]

Together, we can protect our jobs, our livelihoods, and the right to responsibly enjoy a drink.

It’s ballsy, I like it. The link takes you to their handy site where you can find the latest news about tax proposals in your state and contact your representatives to oppose them.

I don’t always approve of Diageo’s lobbying and I can’t vouch for the numbers on their main page, but this is an admirable campaign. For this I’ll lift a Guinness some time soon.


Beer sampling

A recent column from Tim Harford explains how an early Guinness brewer contributed to our understanding of statistics:

The statistical apparatus to check this is a test called Student’s t-test. Student was the pseudonym of William Sealy Gosset, an amiable, rucksack-wearing chemist who – beginning in 1899 – worked all his adult life for Guinness and eventually rose to the rank of head brewer. So nervous was the company about commercial confidentiality that Gosset published surreptitiously under his pseudonym.

From the outset, Gosset’s focus was practical – as the economist and historian Steve Ziliak has discovered through his work in the Guinness archives. To produce beer to a high standard on an industrial scale, Gosset needed to sample and experiment with hops, malt and barley. But experiments are expensive and Gosset developed his small-sample methods because he wanted to understand how many experiments were necessary to be confident of his results. That was a clear trade-off: how much confidence is “enough” depends on the costs of further research and the benefits of extra precision.

The article is interesting throughout. Give it a read and have something to tell your friends about when you have a very large sample of Guinness pints for St. Patrick’s Day later this month.


Everybody loves an Irish car bomb

I wasn’t much of a drinker in college so I missed out on that phase of imbibing nasty “punches” and jungle juices and whatever else it was the people who were getting drunk and high and having sex were doing. I was busy tossing frisbees and hanging out in coffee shops, or drinking an occasional glass of cheap wine with my philosophy professors, and that was about it. The semester I spent in DC loosened me up, though even then I once turned down a Long Island iced tea because “I don’t like tea.” Today I do like tea, and I especially like alcohol, so obviously things have changed a bit.

Because I came around late to the joys of drink, I don’t have many guilty pleasures, the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Stevi Deter. My elitism was well developed by the time I got into cocktails, and if I’m in a crappy bar where I don’t trust the bartender I’ll order straight whiskey before taking my chances on some foul sour mix concoction. But I do have one secret shame: the mixologically dubious and politically incorrect Irish car bomb.

Irish car bomb recipe

Guinness was the first beer I really liked and I think it was my friend Chad Wilcox who first turned me on to dropping a shot of Jameson and Bailey’s Irish Cream into it. Since then I’ve never had a night that involved Irish car bombs that wasn’t fun. Some bad next mornings, sure, but the nights are always a blast.

A few years ago Chad and I tested the theory that everybody loves an Irish car bomb. We were at an Irish pub in Nashville and our eyes were caught by two attractive and completely out of place women sitting at the bar. Everyone else was relaxed in jeans or khakis with a beer in hand; these two were dolled up in cocktail dresses, sitting alone with glasses of red wine. One of us had the idea to have our server send them a pair of Irish car bombs “courtesy of the gentlemen in the corner,” a completely inappropriate drink. We made side bets about what would happen next: a dollar on whether they would drink them and a dollar on whether they’d come and talk to us. I put my money on yes for both.

The women were surprised when the drinks came, but they flashed big smiles and downed them like pros. Our timing couldn’t have been worse though. At just that moment their friends arrived, a group of five or six former frat boys, and it looked like we were going to break even on the bet. In the end they did eventually wander over and talk for a few minutes, but we parted ways as they went off into the Nashville nightlife and we headed back to Vanderbilt for an outdoor concert. Still, I was glad to get $2 off our car bomb experiment, and I’ve had a soft spot for the car bomb ever since.

Normally for Mixology Monday I try to perfect a recipe and post a photo of the finished drink. I’m staying with a bartender friend at the moment, and while he understands the cocktail blogger lifestyle I think even he might be concerned if I start downing car bombs in his kitchen. Photographing it would be tricky too, since the Bailey’s causes the whole thing to curdle into a nasty mess if it’s not consumed immediately. So instead I searched through Flickr for photos of people drinking Irish car bombs, and it seems that indeed everybody does love them. Take the blonde on the left, for example:

Jen Irish car bomb

That’s Jen. We went to high school together. Back then she was one of the good kids; I remember she’d stitched the words “I love Jesus” into her backpack, but never quite finished the “s.” Now she shows up with empty glasses when you search for Irish car bomb photos. No one can resist their allure.

The woman on the right here also loves a car bomb. Look at how proper she is. Her right hand’s extended to catch the drips, and note how she’s holding the glass: pinkies out! Who are you, mysterious woman who drinks a car bomb so daintily? Are you single?

Irish car bomb

The red-headed guy in the next photo may actually be Irish but the look on his face reveals that he is clearly not in touch with his culture. Here’s to learning about your heritage!

Irish car bomb

These party girls are drinking car bombs from very full pint glasses. Major points to them if they pull it off.

Irish car bomb

Guys with mohawks love car bombs.

Irish car bomb

It’s the backstory that makes that one. He’s apparently bonding with his girlfriend’s uncles here. When you’re a dude with a mohawk, nothing builds relations with the future in-laws like introducing them to Irish car bombs.

Asians like car bombs too.

Irish car bomb

Seriously, they really do.

Irish car bomb

Irish car bomb

Irish car bomb

It’s never too early in the morning to do a round of car bombs. Weak pours though. Buck up, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day!

Irish car bomb

Without the Bailey’s mustache, this guy is just another drunk with his shirt off. With it he’s pure sex appeal.

Irish car bomb

You know you’re at a good bar when they serve so many car bombs that they pre-mix the Bailey’s and whiskey in a store-n-pour.

Irish car bomb

Damn it, I want a car bomb now.

[Photo used under Creative Commons license: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.]