Irish whiskey makes this drink perfect for St. Pat’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon. So let’s have a drink!
We can suggest the perfect tipple: The Hearn’s Cocktail, born at the original Waldorf Astoria hotel bar in New York City.
New York was once home to thousands of Irish immigrants, so NYC bartenders knew how to handle Irish whiskey.
Let’s all benefit from their knowledge, and get our Irish on.
Recipe: The Hearn’s Cocktail
The Hearn’s Cocktail—sometimes called The Hearn Cocktail—originally called for equal parts Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and absinthe (or a pastis substitute like Pernod), plus a dash of bitters for zest. The result is a drink with heavy anise flavor. A bit too heavy for us, in fact, so we reduced the amount of absinthe in our version.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 1 ounce Irish whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Italian vermouth—the red stuff)
- ½ ounce absinthe or pastis (the original recipe calls for twice this amount; see Notes)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters (orange bitters work well too)
- orange twist for garnish (very optional)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake briskly until well chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that has been chilled. Garnish, if desired, and serve.
- Why shake rather than stir this drink? The “rule” says to stir drinks when all the ingredients are clear (because shaking introduces small bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy). But if some ingredients are opaque (citrus juice, for example), then you shake because the cloudiness won’t matter. In this drink, all the ingredients start out looking clear, but absinthe turns cloudy when mixed with other liquids. So you can shake this one. Or stir—it’s really your choice.
- This drink usually is served without garnish. But if you want to add one, we recommend a twist of orange peel.
- Feel free to adjust the amount of absinthe in this drink. As noted above, the original recipe called for a full ounce, but we found that overpowering. Some drinkers like to reduce the absinthe even further (using no more than ¼ ounce).
- This drink traditionally is served “up,” but we also like it on the rocks. When we make it that way, we sometimes increase the amount of absinthe (or pastis). The water from the ice cubes seems to dilute the anise flavor a bit.
- Absinthe was banned in the US (and much of Europe) for years because one of its ingredients was thought to be psychoactive and addictive. It’s legal again now–and usually quite high proof (100+).
- We often substitute Pernod (which is a brand of pastis) for absinthe because it’s good quality and widely available. Not to mention cheaper.
- There are other good brands of pastis available too. Ask the friendly people at your liquor store for recommendations.
- BTW, “pastis” is just the generic French name for anise-flavored liqueur that resembles absinthe. It’s generally good stuff.
- The Waldorf Astoria is a well-known luxury hotel on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The current hotel is a second iteration. The original was actually two different hotels (the Waldorf and the Astoria) that were built side-by-side on Fifth Avenue at 33rd Street. The hotels merged in 1897, but were demolished in 1929 for construction of the Empire State Building, which now stands on the site. That’s when the hotel moved to its current location on Park Avenue.
- The Hearn’s Cocktail was invented at the original Waldorf Astoria hotel location, probably during the 1920s.
- Speaking of the Waldorf: Substitute bourbon for Irish whiskey in the Hearn’s Cocktail and you have the original Waldorf Cocktail—named, of course, after the hotel in which it was invented. (BTW, the Waldorf Cocktail is sometimes called the Brain-Duster. Who knows why.)
- So, who was Hearn? And why was this cocktail named after him (or her)? No one really knows. Around the time the drink was created, there was a popular department store in New York City called Hearn’s. Could the drink have been named after the store? Or one of its owners? Beats us. As is the case with so many cocktails, the history of this drink is murky.
- 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.
May Your Glass Be Ever Full
“Lots of flavor in this drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Must be the luck of the Irish.”
“It’s a good one,” I said. “And sure beats green beer.”
“Shall we have another?” said Mrs K R. “We need to toast Eire properly.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Wouldn’t want to diss St Patrick.”
“Be careful, though,” said Mrs K R. “We don’t want to wind up cavorting like leprechauns.”
“Or wake up face down in a field of shamrocks,” I said.
“Just remember,” said Mrs K R, eyeing me as I reached for a bottle. “They say that God created whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.”
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