A drink made with Irish whiskey? Perfect for St. Pat’s Day
If you’re looking for an alcoholic beverage to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, you have plenty to choose from. In the US, Guinness stout and green beer are traditional favorites. Or maybe you’d prefer a shot of Irish whiskey with a beer chaser (green, of course). And there’s always Irish Coffee.
But this year, how about something different? The Brainstorm Cocktail is an Irish whiskey-fueled elixir, so it’s totally appropriate for the day. And its intriguing flavor will have people coming back for seconds.
If anybody asks how you came up with the idea for this drink, just smile modestly—and tell them it was a brainstorm.
Recipe: The Brainstorm Cocktail
A Brainstorm combines Irish whiskey with dry vermouth and Bénédictine liqueur. You can also find versions of this drink made with rye (or even bourbon), but we much prefer the Irish whiskey version.
This drink is most often served “up” in a cocktail glass. But David Wondrich suggests trying it over ice in a rocks glass as an after-dinner drink. We prefer it that way—particularly when we fill the glass with crushed or shaved ice and sip the drink from a straw.
We also like Wondrich’s recipe, so that’s what we use here (but see the Notes for possible variations).
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey (see Notes)
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons dry vermouth (aka French or white vermouth)
- 1½ to 2 teaspoons Bénédictine liqueur
- garnish of an orange peel or twist (optional; or substitute lemon—not traditional, but quite nice)
- Fill a cocktail shaker half full with ice. Add all the ingredients (except garnish), and shake until well chilled (20 seconds will do it).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Or strain into a rocks glass filled with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add garnish if using (and add straws if using a rocks glass). Serve and enjoy.
- Technically, you should stir this drink rather than shake it because all the ingredients are clear. The rule says to stir clear ingredients because shaking introduces oxygen into the drink, making it somewhat cloudy. But we prefer to shake this one. So call the cocktail police.
- You may need to adjust the amounts of dry vermouth and Bénédictine to balance this drink to your taste. David Wondrich prefers 1½ teaspoons of each; we tend toward 2 teaspoons. Some people prefer to use more vermouth than Bénédictine (say ½ ounce dry vermouth, ¼ ounce Bénédictine).
- Irish whiskey was first made in the 12th century, which means it was among the earliest distilled drinks in Europe (Scotch, by contrast, wasn’t made until the late 15th century). Traditionally, Irish whiskey is made in a pot still (essentially a big vat) one batch at a time, and often is distilled three times for superior flavor.
- The two brands of Irish whiskey you’re likely to find at your grocery or liquor store are Jameson and Bushmills. Jameson is the most widely sold Irish whiskey in the world (it’s distilled in Cork, and vatted in Dublin). Bushmills is made in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Either works well in this drink.
- Bénédictine is an aromatic herbal liqueur. Based on the name, you might assume that it’s produced by Benedictine monks. In fact, it was invented in 1863 by Alexandre Le Grand, a French wine merchant and industrialist. Le Grand did, however, boost sales by claiming that monks at a Benedictine Abbey in Normandy had developed the beverage.
- As is the case with many cocktails, the origins of this drink are obscure. Most likely it was created by Hugo Ensslin, who was head bartender at New York’s Hotel Wallick. Ensslin, who wrote and self-published a guide called Recipes for Mixed Drinks around 1915, is also credited with creating the Aviation Cocktail.
- March 17th is the feast day of Saint Patrick, the best known of Ireland’s patron saints (the others are Saints Brigid and Columba). St. Patrick’s day is celebrated by people of Irish descent around the world. And by those of us who decide to become Irish, at least for the day.
“Interesting drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Which version do you prefer—up or on the rocks?”
“Definitely the rocky version,” I said. “Easy decision, in fact. I don’t need to rack my brains about it.”
“Yes, it’s a no-brainer,” said Mrs K R. “The rocks make a nice slow sipper out of this drink.”
“It would be easy to toss back too many of the up version,” I said. “And then you’d be brain dead.”
“Better stop before we get too addle-brained,” said Mrs K R.
Good call. Don't want to start our own private brain drain.
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Hi john , this cocktail is also a keep and bet your dollar I will serve it at the St. Patrick's party . What a beautiful drink , almost to gorgeous to drink (giggling) who am I kidding , I will shut my eyes and sip it down . Hello to Mrs. K R and thanks for sharing :)
A couple of these and I would not be able to brain storm....just sayin'.
Hi Nee, you'll like this -- loads of flavor. Happy sipping! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, totally know what you mean! Couple of these and my brain is fried. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful as always, John. Love the colour on this. I've never heard of Benedictine liqueur..when you say herbal...what does it taste like?
Educational as usual. I'm the most educated non drinker thanks to you!
Hi Nazneen, Bénédictine is rather sweet with a bit of spice to it. It's a bit hard to describe the taste -- there are a lot of herb flavors going on -- but lavender is a fairly distinct flavor (but it doesn't overwhelm). I'm not a real fan of Bénédictine neat, but really like it in cocktails. Thanks for the comment.
I'm off to buy some Benedictine --- this sounds enticing!
That is a great looking cocktail....maybe I should do one for St. Pat's day :)
You're right. The rocky version would definitely be the way to go with this. Without the ice, this one would go done really quickly. :) Love Bénédictine and B&B. Pinning this for my party weekend in Dallas. :) I'll now someone who will love sharing these with me.
Hi Sue, it's a fun drink. Enjoy! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, it'd definitely be a good choice. And if you don't like it, it's fun to look at. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi MJ, Bénédictine has lovely flavor, doesn't it? It works so well as a cocktail ingredient! And I like it with brandy (B&B) as an after dinner drink. Thanks for the comment.
What a beautiful and delicious drink, ideal for St. Patrick's Day!
Oh wow... did I miss St Patrick's Day or is it in March? Cin cin.
Gosh, I haven't had Bénédictine or B&B in the house in years. I'm really liking this cocktail though. I'd go with on the rocks too. There's just something about clinking drinks that gets my brain a storming. It really has a fine looking color too. How cool would it be to list drinks by their color, lol...Don't ask me where that came from. Well, it may just be a brainstorm!
Thanks for sharing, John...
We have Benedictine and I am always looking for ways to use it. This has given me a brainstorm! Thanks for that, because it was feeling pretty brain dead for awhile!
Hi Denise, isn't it grand? And really a fun way to celebrate the holiday. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, you've still got over a week to get in supplies. I just like to be prepared. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, it'd be interesting to list drinks by their color -- there would be a whole lot of brown ones! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, I'm feeling pretty brainless most of the time. Glad to help you find a use for your Bénédictine. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
A great drink, I am sure...for St. Patty's day or anyday. Never had any of this drinks ingredients but have to try a sip. I love the name, Brainstorm Cocktail. I think it looks nicer in the small glass with the straws. Great post...I will have to share this one with some people that I think would love this drink...Oh and don't worry you can shake this cocktail, I will not call the cocktail police! Ha ha I thought that was funny! Thanks for sharing, have a great night!
I'm convinced. What a great cocktail for St. Patrick's Day! Beautiful photos as usual.
Hi John, when I first saw the title of this post, I just could not wait to read yours and Mrs. K.R. conversation, I knew it was going to be a good one. Lovely drink!
Brainstorm huh? Well, alcohol does make you come up with some VERY interesting ideas! ;)
Oh! Great! Cocktail time! Gonna try this right away! Looks awesome!
Hi Dottie, thanks for not calling the cocktail police on us. :-) This really is a fun drink -- hope you have a chance to try it sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Karen, anyone who likes Irish whiskey will really like this drink. And I like Irish whiskey. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Cheri, this was a fun post to write! And we left so many "brain" jokes on the cutting room floor. Maybe we'll be able to use them another time.;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, yup, alcohol can result in a lot of ideas, can't it. Some of them good. Some of them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcela, we love cocktail time around here. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Another gorgeous cocktail! You make the best lemon twists!!
Sounds like a great for St. Patrick's Day! I think that I would prefer to drink it on the rock too.
I like your brainy discussion with Mrs KR. I prefer to sip my drinks slowly too... This cocktail looks awesome! Happy St. Pat’s Day to you! Cheers!
This cocktail looks absolutely lovely, I love the colour, like drinking gold :D
Choc Chip Uru
Hi Liz, isn't this pretty? And tasty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dawn, we much prefer it on the rocks. Which is how we'll drink it on St. Pat's Day. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Zoe, we always enjoy those brainy conversations. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Uru, it is like drinking gold! Tastier, though.;-) Thanks for the comment.
We learn so much whenever we visit your adorable blog...thanks so much...this will make the best sip for a special day...And we can see those salted cashews have a purpose...they make the photo beautiful and will go really well with this drink...amazing food clicks and perfect recipes as always,thanks for inspiring :-)
Hi Kumar, cashews go really well with this drink. Plus they're a nice treat for the photographer. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I like to keep a well stocked bar, but I always resist buying Bendectine (and Chartreuse for that matter) because of the price. However, this recipe reminds me that you only use a tiny teaspoon or two at a time, so a $45 bottle would last me a good long week (insert smiley face here). GREG
A lot of these drinks and their history, I learned from you, John. Aside from being an attractive looking drink, I like the name -- Brainstorm. Thank you, John! :)
Hi Greg, you're so right that one doesn't really use much of liqueurs like Bénédictine (although some people do enjoy it as an after dinner drink), so a bottle lasts a long time. As you say, a week at least! :D And there are a number of cocktails that really require it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ray, whoever named this drink definitely had a brain wave. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I am marching along in the St Paddy's Day parade behind this drink for two reasons. One,
brainstorming is a constant part of my life. Ideas bubble up when summoned or unbidden.
I really like that part of myself. But it's been a challenge not to shoot off in multiple directions at once. Secondly I love Benedictine. It is soooo mellow and has such a honeyed distinctive flavor.
Something other than Irish Coffee at this time of the year is a big welcome change. And the Up version for me please!
Nice and interesting cocktail...although it seems a little too strong for me...I will have to go really slow on this one.
Love the photos...hope you are having a great week John :)
I think it's so hard coming up with St. Patrick's Day recipes, but this is a totally unique and exciting one!
A perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! How do you keep coming up with so many interesting drinks?
That's another stunning cocktail. I would be knocked out with a couple. Everytime I visit your page, I'm seriously tempted to go buy everything to make a drink..you make it that interesting. Love the name.
Great photos as usual. I can feel it is a great drink .. for me I will stick to the McDonald's Shamrock Shake .... you know :)
How fun, I love the name. I think I like the way it looks better on the rocks too.
The cocktail is very pretty. Do you get Japanese whiskeys in the US? I'm sure you do but I heard the very best whiskey in the world is now coming out of Japan! Maybe that's just someone's opinion or clever marketing on the part of the Japanese. As for me, I struggle with whiskey however my husband is a huge fan xx
Hi Carol, this should be the drink for all brainstormers! ;-) And I agree Bénédictine has such an interesting taste -- adds such a nice subtle note to this drink. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ansh, one "up" coming up! That is the prettier of the two versions, IMO. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, you'd definitely want this drink over ice (preferably crushed ice) to help dilute it. Still good flavor, just not as strong. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, this is a fun St. Pat's drink, isn't it? And something a bit different. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, I have more than 1 cocktail book in my library to give me ideas. :-) And it's fun searching out new drinks (new to me, at least). Thanks for the comment.
Hi Asha, cocktails really are interesting -- so many have fascinating histories. And they're pretty! Not to mention they taste awfully good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, I do know why you'll be sticking to the Shamrock Shake. ;-) But it's still fun to read about drinks! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Chris, this is a great looking drink whether up or on the rocks, IMO. I actually prefer the looks of the up version a bit more, but definitely prefer drinking the rocky version. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, we probably do get some of the Japanese whiskeys in the US, although I haven't sought them out. I believe what they produce is similar to Scotch -- which I rarely drink. Rye and bourbon are the forms of whiskey I prefer, then Irish, then Scotch. And I could well be wrong, but I don't believe anyone in Japan is making rye or bourbon. But I definitely need to check on that and find out! Thanks for the comment.
You had me at the name. I'm wondering if it will make me smarter, especially with so many deadlines looming. LOL Hey, it's worth a try -- or sip, right? ;)
Hi Carolyn, isn't the name great? And I'm sure a sip would help! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love it in the crystal tumbler. Sounds like the perfect cocktail for the weekend!
Haha - but seriously how much "brain draining" can happen in the middle of a "brainstorm" eh? ;)
The conversations at the end between you and Mrs KR - leave me guffawing! And I also managed to learn the different results of shaking and stirring!
It looks and sounds really tasty & totally perfect for St. Patrick's Day!
Hi Caroline, that crystal tumbler is pretty, isn't it? Makes anything look good! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shashi, we're capable of any amount of brain draining. Even during a brainstorm. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, it really is a nice drink for St. Pat's. Or any old time! Thanks for the comment.
Love the look of this cocktail! I did need ideas for St Patricks day!
I have a friend (or two) who would go crazy for this! Gotta love Irish whiskey!
Hi Cathleen, isn't this a pretty drink? Tasty, too! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, Irish whiskey has a nice flavor, doesn't it? I love the stuff! Thanks for the comment.
I'll tell my husband about this drink! Perfect.
Hi Peachy, I'll bet he'll really like this! Such a good flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi there John a very happy Irish day to you to a little early! I think on the rocks for me too! I love slow sippers. Great photo shots and hope you were able to get these beautiful ones in less than 40 shots! Got your message about photo taking and thanks for the information. I should really start shooting tethered. I know it would make a world of difference to my workflow around getting the shots. Are you shooting in the raw as well? I have not crossed that path yet and wondering if the bang is worth the buck for the size of the files. Maybe we should take these conversations off line or leave them if you think it may help other foodie bloggers... as I know we all admire your photography.
Hi Bam, although I like "up" drinks a lot, this one really does cry out for rocks, IMO.I always shoot raw for food --so much easier to adjust white balance that way, and to adjust contrast and white/black points.It really makes a difference, although of course it's more work The file size doesn't bother me, but I have an older camera with files that are only 16 megapixels -- more than enough for what I'm doing! We can certainly take this conversation offline if you wish -- feel free to email me. Although it may be useful to others, as you suggest. Anyway, Thanks for the comment.
Looks like I will have to look for that Bénédictine :)
Another great cocktail recipe!
Thanks for this since the thought of green beer makes me gag. Great photos John.
Hi Raymund, you won't be sorry to get Bénédictine -- it's so nice in cocktails (and I've used it in several others). Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, I'm not really fond of green beer either. Thanks for the comment.
I phoned the cocktail police and they thought I was crazy and they agreed with you.
I'd much prefer this cocktail than beer too.
Hi Maureen, LOL! Those cocktail police can be something. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
I typically go for beer on the 17th, but this alluring cocktail piques my interest. Pinned this beverage for good measure. Cheers!
Hi Brooks, it's hard to go wrong with beer on St. Pat's Day, but IMO this drink is even more appropriate. Irish whiskey has such nice flavor, don't you think? Thanks for the comment.
My daughter's birthday is on St Patrick's day- as she gets older, I feel older, too. Must have one of these cocktails to forget that I'm getting older!
Another terrific drink, John! This sounds like a perfect companion to our St. Patrick's Day meal!
Well this sounds like a good time. :) Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Hi Fran, happy early birthday to your daughter! ;-) And this is the perfect antidote to aging! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amy, it's a fun drink! And if you like Irish whiskey, it's got your name on it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lux, it is a good time! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like a much better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than with green beer! I think I'd go with the rocks version too.
Hi Lisa, yup, this definitely beats green beer. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I always love your cocktails, John. (especially the way you photograph them, I struggle with photographing cocktails!). But this one is really interesting. I feel like I must have had benedictine before, but can't quite place the flavor. But that alone has me wanting to try this! Thanks for sharing it! : )
Hi Anne, cocktails are fun to photograph (they're so pretty!), but trying to control reflections and stray light can be a real pain at times. This really is a good one -- worth a try if you get a chance. Thanks for the comment.
Wow I am such a fan of all things Irish - so this speaks to me! Recently visited the Jameson Distillery in Ireland - great tour - great drink - thank you!
Simply damn refreshing shoots cocktail!!!
Hi Tricia, must have been fun to tour the Jameson distillery. Lucky you! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dedy, isn't this a great cocktail? Thanks for the kind comment.
What a brainstorm , love this inspiring drink and the story behind it.
Ah, and before I forget- the picture with the St. Pats napkin and the nuts looks so beautiful and inviting - cheers to the Photographer!
Hi Daniela, isn't this an interesting drink? Awfully good flavor! Thanks for those very kind words, and for commenting.
Excellent idea, we'd love this with shaved ice, too! Irish for a day is great with this drink! Cheers!!
Julie & Alesah
Gourmet Getaways xx
Hi Julie & Alesah, shaved ice is definitely the way to go, IMO. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a fun St Patty's drink! Looks delicious!
Hi Kristi, this is definitely a bit different. And more than a bit good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful looking drink, looks so much fun! Great Patrick Day's drink. I adore your drink photographs.
Hi Minnie, isn't this a nice drink? Really terrific flavors. ;-) Thanks for that very kind comment.
Amazing drinks! I wish to taste all of them!
Hi Marcela, me too! Oh, wait, I already have. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I know I'm late to the party but glad I finally made it! This sounds so interesting and I think if I wade through my cache I actually have some Bénédictine too so it's on the docket to try. Still; what I have to comment on is Bullet Number One. Yes,, the cocktail police; they find me occasionally and well, take me to jail but yes I do put vodka in a martini and guilty as charged; if it's in a martini glass I might refer to it as a martini even if there is fruit. Don't we have bigger issues to deal with? Like finding the Bénédictine! :)
Hi Barb, the cocktail police are everywhere, aren't they? :-) But as long as something in a glass tastes good, I don't really care what ingredients they use, or what they call it! This really is a fun drink -- worth a try. Thanks for the comment.
"just smile modestly - and tell them it was a brainstorm" Love it! Such a unique cocktail for St Pat's day.
Hi Amanda, ;-) This really is a nice drink -- lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
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