8 Decorated Barkeeps on Their Favorite Irish Whiskey

Put down the green beer and slowly back away

March 16, 2018 9:00 am

Tomorrow, let’s be adults.

Put down the green beer. Irish Car Bombs … really think about the name there, fella.

And don’t call it “St. Patty’s Day” (Patty is short for Patricia; Paddy is Patrick).

Instead, get to know Irish whiskey — properly.

Once the most popular spirit in the world, Irish whiskey is making a serious comeback … and deserves more love than the occasional shot of Jameson.

Herein, bartenders from the best whiskey bars in the world give us their picks for the best Irish whiskey labels, along with a few simple cocktail recipes you can make at home.


Mike Di Tota
The Bonnie, Astoria, NY

His Irish whiskey of choice: Teeling Small Batch. It’s very easy to approach because of its subtle citrus notes. It doesn’t have a lot of “sting.” It’s more rounded out.

How would you drink it? I love to use it in cocktails because of its citrusy notes and light body. You can use it in a light-bodied stirred cocktail; it also really shines in a sour variation, with citrus juice and sweetness from a simple syrup of some type. It has up-front citrus notes with a subtle, salty brininess on the back end, and I firmly believe that a little bit of added salt goes a long way in cocktails: it can elevate all the other flavors that you’re looking to bring out in a drink. Teeling is outstanding when paired with vegetal aperitifs like Salers or Suze, which are made with gentian root, or when used with actual herbs and fresh produce.

What’s a good cocktail recipe for this Irish whiskey?

The Victory Garden

1.5 oz Teeling Small Batch Whiskey
.5 oz. Giffard Crème de Pamplemousse liqueur
.5 arugula syrup*
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes celery bitters

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain over a large ice cube in a coupe.

*To make the arugula syrup: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Gather one bunch arugula leaves by the stems and plunge into boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove arugula from boiling water and immediately submerge in a bowl of ice water for one minute. Pat dry on a clean kitchen towel. Remove leaves and add to blender with simple syrup. Blend for one minute. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry
The Dead Rabbit, NYC

Their Irish whiskeys of choice …
Muldoon: I think Bushmills Black Bush is really good for an entry-level Irish Whiskey. I also really enjoy Bushmills 10 Year. The two whiskies are completely different, but they both work well in cocktails and we have used both at The Dead Rabbit.
McGarry: I like Bushmills 10 Year because I thinks it’s a great representation of triple-distilled whiskey in Ireland, which is what Bushmills is famous for.

How would you drink it?
Sean Muldoon: Straight or in a cocktail. 
Jack McGarry: If I would drink a Bushmills 10 Year, it would be neat.

Their cocktail recipes …
Sean Muldoon: Our signature cocktail drink is the Irish coffee (pictured above; recipe in link)— it took us a long time to get it right and I genuinely think the one we’re doing now with Bushmills Original is the best. Bushmills Original has the highest grain content of the blends, which makes the whole Irish coffee lighter. Irish coffee shouldn’t be heavy or overbearing. Even our staff is commenting on how good it is. 
Jack McGarry: I like the Bushmills 10 Year in a martini-type drink. This would call for ingredients such as cocchi Americano, pear liqueur, genepi, Boston bitters and Absinthe.

Sarah Clark
The Dearborn, Chicago

Her Irish whiskey of choice: Redbreast 12 Year. It’s a single pot still Irish whiskey (meaning it’s only distilled in whole batches, then aged 12 years and not blended with any other younger or older whiskey). I love it because it has beautiful notes of caramel, toffee, vanilla and a little heat. They also make a 15-year that is much sweeter, but I like the kick the 12 gives … makes you remember what you’re drinking.

How would you drink it? Neat or with one or two drops of water. I know many people prefer whiskey over ice, but I feel you lose a lot of the warm, round flavor when you chill the whiskey.

What’s a good cocktail for this whiskey?

The Irish Old Fashioned
2 oz Redbreast 12 year
.25 oz Demerara (2:1 ratio simple syrup)
4 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

Stir all ingredients in a stirring glass with ice, strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube or a few smaller cubes. Express the oil of an orange swath over top and drop it in.

Darren Green
Garavan’s, Galway, Ireland (AKA the Irish Whiskey Bar of the Year 2017)

His Irish whiskey of choice: Green Spot Chateau Léoville Barton. I’m a big fan of pot still whiskey, but I found the addition of the wine cask finish elevated what was already a great whiskey to another level.

How would you drink it? Neat. I find it well balanced and there’s no need to add water or ice.

What’s a good cocktail for this whiskey?

The Old Fashioned

60 ml Irish Whiskey
20 ml Benedictine
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Stir over ice. Strain into chilled rocks glass over ice. Garnish with orange twist.

Kenneth McCoy
The Rum House and Ward III, NYC

His Irish whiskey of choice: Redbreast 12 Year. It’s got big Sherry notes that make you think of roaring fires and holiday time.

How would you drink it? Served neat with a beer on the side, preferably a Guinness … but if not, a lager will do fine.

What’s a good cocktail recipe with this Irish whiskey?

The Tipperary Cocktail

1.5 oz Redbreast 12 Year 
1 oz Dolin Rouge
.50 oz Green Chartreuse
Dash of Angostura bitters

Place all ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice, stir for 20 seconds and pour into a chilled coupe, orange zest discarded.

Harrison Ginsberg and Nick Rolin
Patent Pending, NYC

Their Irish Whiskey of Choice: Powers John’s Lane. This is a 12-year-old single pot still Irish whiskey, meaning that it’s produced in Ireland from malted and unmalted barley from one distillery, then distilled three times in copper pot stills. John’s Lane is matured in ex-bourbon and Oloroso Sherry casks, which gives it a bold dried fruit note. Being a single pot still whiskey means it’s rich and has notes of coffee, caramel, honey and a ton of baking spice and vanilla characteristics.

How would you drink it? Neat. It’s perfect. No need to complicate things.

What’s a good cocktail for this whiskey? Okay, twist our arm. Powers John’s Lane can make one hell of a cocktail, and we like to pair it with some rich flavors to add to the complexity.

The Great Gambler
1 teaspoon Cold Brew Coffee Syrup*
.25 oz. Fernet Branca
.25 oz. Pedro Ximenez Sherry
2 oz. Powers John’s Lane Irish Whiskey

Stir, serve in a rocks/Old Fashioned glass on a large ice cube.

* Cold Brew Syrup: Combine 1 part Cold Brew Coffee and 2 parts granulated white sugar. Heat to incorporate. Bottle and store for use.

Tre Stillwagon
Analogue, NYC 

His Irish whiskey of choice: Connemara 12. It’s produced at the Cooley distillery and double distilled, as opposed to the usual Irish triple-distillation process. The whiskey is peated, so you get these lovely chalky, phenolic tones off the nose that lead into a lovely smoked orchard fruit tone on the front palate (think barbecued pears). The distillation style also makes the whiskey more viscous so you get a nice smoky, mouth-coating dram out of it.

How would you drink it? I would recommend drinking it neat at room temperature and after a few sips, I would add a few drops of cold water to open it up. I think this dram in particular would pair very well with any seafood, and I can think of worse problems to have than having to pair lobster with your whiskey on St. Paddy’s Day.

What’s a good cocktail for this whiskey?

The John Teeling Flip

2 oz. Connemara 12
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. cherry heering
1/2 oz. rich simple syrup (2:1 ratio)
1 whole Egg

Shake all ingredients in a Boston shaker dry with no ice vigorously. Add ice and shake again. Double-strain over a large rock and use shaved nutmeg to garnish.

Sean Burke
Lady Gregory’s Old TownChicago

His Irish whiskey of choice: Powers. It’s smooth, approachable and the right price point.

How would you drink it? Neat, 2.5 ounces, with no ice. Perfect to aid in washing down a pint of Guinness, Smithwicks or Magners Cider. In that order.

What’s a good cocktail for this whiskey?

The Black Manhattan

2 dashes of Aromatic Bitters (Lady Gregory’s uses their own housemade bitters)
.75 oz Averna Amaro
2 oz Powers Irish Whiskey

Stir with ice. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with luxardo cherry.


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