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Our annual St. Patrick’s Day top places, picks and recipe roundup

Full disclosure: Monsters & Critics received free samples of the products mentioned in this article for review. However, the opinions expressed are independent and our own.

Saint Patrick’s Day, where a glass is raised to honor Ireland’s patron saint. Even if the true origins of the holiday get lost in the beer google gaze of those who celebrate, it is truly a day to pay homage to the ubiquitous Irish culture and heritage that dominates North America.

And Americans count for seven times more people than Ireland itself who claim direct Irish ancestry. Canadians count over 15% of their population being of Irish descent.

For revelers, the USA is awash in fab pubs with outstanding menus. From Boston’s famed The Black Rose to Miami’s The Playwright Irish Pub, Houston’s legendary party central Griff’s to Boise’s boisterous Dirty Little Roddy’s infamous No Pants Party and the classic Ha’Penny Bridge Pub, not to mention San Francisco’s Durty Nelly’s fireside pub, The Irish Oak in Chicago or New York City’s classy Neary’s with their killer classic entree, Corned Beef and Cabbage, those who wish to celebrate publicly have many fantastic options.

And for those who wish to safely drink at home, we have compiled the best new sips, pours and cocktail recipes of late to try out if green beer and being in public minus pants is not your jam.

The recipes below are tried and true and perfect to impress friends and raise glasses together in honor of St. Patrick. Sláinte!

2018 Top pick sipper Irish whiskey:

No mixing! We have a tie:

Redbreast 12 Years Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Brilliant for the money. This amber potion is aged for 12 years and earned a righteous 96 points from Whisky Advocate.
In 1857, W&A Gilbey Co. began in the dark basement in London, on Oxford Street and Berwick. By 1900 they were in possession of the largest stocks of maturing whiskey and expanded to Dublin, Belfast, and Edinburgh.

In 1912, Gilbeys created a 12-year-old whiskey named Redbreast, honoring the bird, a Robin Redbreast as the Chairman of Gilbeys was a dotty birdwatcher and proper an ornithologist.

Today, Redbreast 12-Year-Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is a finely tuned miracle, a blend of malted and unmalted barley, triple-distilled through traditional copper-pot stills. The addition of unmalted barley in the whiskey’s mashbill along with the triple distillation is a proper Irish way of making whiskey.

Adding nuance and sweetness, the whiskey is matured in a combination of Spanish Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks giving it a cognac-like rounder palette. After a 12-years, the whiskey is bottled minus chill filtration.

Green Spot Single Pot Still Chateau Montelena Irish Whiskey

Incredible and twice the price of Redbreast, but if you have the cheddar and love a complex, spicy, rounded cognac finish to your whiskey, you must go for it. Green Spot Chateau Montelena is part of the Jameson clan. It is aged first in American Bourbon and Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and then finished for one year in casks that previously held Zinfandel wine from the gorgeous Chateau Montelena, in California’s Napa Valley.

So, all this grape influence in the wood nets you a layered fruity, spicy finish as the bourbon, sherry and wine elements yield cranberry and pomegranate, a bit of black cherry and chocolate, all in a complex, silky, dry and round burst of flavor on the tongue. It’s utterly marvelous and must-try if you adore whiskey.  Do not sully this pour with a mixer.

Green Spot Chateau Montelena is the 2nd edition of the Wine Geese series, following Green Spot Chateau Léoville Barton, released in 2015.

Gin

Caorunn (Scotland)

This is no London gin. Scotland makes incredible spirits and their Caorunn gin is a symphony of florals and herbaceous notes that make it a spoiler, meaning once you have it, it will be your call.

There are five natural Scottish botanicals which surround their Balmenach Distillery in Speyside located in the Cairngorm National Park.  Caorunn’s locally foraged five ingredients are blush apple, heather, dandelion, bog myrtle and rowan berry act mixed with six traditional gin ingredients and superb Scottish water, yielding a true craft artisan gin.

The decanter is a work of art unto itself, the signature pentagonal shape and five-pointed asterisk base that makes this bottle one to display.

They gave us two great new recipes to try for the holiday:

BLUSH APPLE MARTINI

1  3/4 oz. Caorunn Gin
1  1/4 oz. Pressed Apple juice
3/4 oz. Lemon juice
1/4 oz. Gomme syrup
3 raspberries, for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake and strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with raspberries on a pick.

CRANACHAN COCKTAIL

1  1/4 oz. Caorunn Gin
1/2 oz. Calvados
1/2 oz. Honey Syrup
1/2 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 raspberries
3/4 oz. Pasteurized egg white
Soda water

Shake first six ingredients then double strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and dust with cinnamon sugar.

RYE

Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey (America)

Old is right, over 100 years old and still kicking, this affordable tasty rye ($24.99) is our stone cold bargain, a spicy pour and perfect for the classic Old Fashioned. They are also part of the Beam Suntory family same as Auchentoshan whisky, which we visited back in December 2017.

Just like Old Overholt Straight Rye, Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye has that rich rye taste but packs an extra robust, oaky flavor from bonded bottling, and is aged for four years and bottled at 100 proof from a single distiller and distillation season.

OLD OVERHOLT BONDED STRAIGHT RYE WHISKEY OLD FASHIONED

1 First, you need to have on hand some easy to make Orange Peel Simple Syrup.

Bring to a slow boil for 45 minutes the stripped orange peels of three large oranges with 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar, let it simmer then with a slotted spoon drain the peel out of the syrup, set aside on parchment paper, then strain the syrup into a clean container. Make sure to let those candied orange strips dry very slowly in a low 150-180 degree oven for about 30 minutes and set aside for use in baking or covering in chocolate like we did:

2 ounces Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey
1/2 ounce orange simple syrup
3-8 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
One strip piece of orange peel with oils expressed inside the glass, you can flame it too for the garnish finish, optional
1 to 2 Luxardo cherries, optional (use the Luxardo-they’re a bit costly but totally worth it)

Place orange simple syrup, bitters and the whiskey in a mixing vessel and stir vigorously. Strain into Old Fashioned glass containing one large cube and orange peel garnish and cherry.

BOURBON

Maker’s Mark Bourbon (America)

Down in Loretto, Kentucky is an exquisite distillery owned by the Samuels family that churns out a wildly popular and brilliant bourbon. Maker’s Mark has the distinct red wax seal and is made with their distinct “water, wheat, wood and wax” combination since 1958. It’s a mass-produced yet boasts a smaller batch-like bourbon that is both affordable and exceptional.

They sent is a drink recipe for those who prefer their cocktails on the sweet side.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Ball Julep

2 parts Makers Mark
1/4 parts Amaretto
1/4 parts Crème de Cocoa
Fresh mint leaves
Crushed pecans

Add all ingredients except for the pecans to a julep cup.
Gently muddle the mint to express the oils.
Add crushed ice.
Garnish with a mint sprig and the crushed pecans.

TEQUILA

Tres Agaves Tequila

This is easy and fast, and shockingly fantastic.  You might never make a Margarita from scratch again.
Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix that tastes like fresh lime juice and is something to always have on hand in the refrigerator.

Let me say unequivocally that we absolutely hate premade Margarita Mixes, and that this was absolutely the happiest of surprises and the best premade Margarita Mix we have ever crossed paths with.  For this recipe we used the Reposado tequila:

Best. Mixer. Ever. for Margaritas

2 oz. Tres Agaves 100% de Agave Tequila
3 oz. Tres Agaves Organic Lime Margarita Mix
Fresh Lime Wedge or Wheel, for Garnish (optional)

Shake with ice, taste for balance and pour over fresh ice into your favorite rocks glass. Add a squeeze of fresh lime wedge & use as garnish. Salted rim optional


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