Made with Irish whiskey, this elixir is perfect for St. Pat’s Day
St. Patrick’s Day is coming up soon. So how about a drink?
We suggest the Blackthorn (sometimes spelled Blackthorne), which mixes Irish whiskey with sweet vermouth, absinthe, and bitters.
It’s bracing and tasty. And just right for getting your Irish on.
Recipe: The Blackthorn Cocktail
The Blackthorn is an old cocktail, dating back to the 19th century. There actually are several versions of the drink, including some that contain gin or sloe gin. Our favorite is one that uses Irish whiskey.
An iteration of the Irish-whiskey version was included in The Savoy Cocktail Book, published during the 1930s. However, that version called for equal parts of whiskey and sweet vermouth – a rather unbalanced drink, in our opinion (the flavor of the whiskey tends to disappear).
We prefer a whiskey-forward formula, the version Gary Regan mixes in The Joy of Mixology. Essentially, this version is an Irish whiskey Manhattan Cocktail, but with absinthe added as a curveball.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth (Italian red vermouth)
- ¼ ounce absinthe or pastis (or to taste; see Notes)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters (or to taste)
- lemon twist for garnish (optional)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until well-chilled (about 30 seconds).
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled). Garnish with a lemon twist, if desired, and serve.
- Why stir rather than shake this drink? Because the ingredients are clear. Shaking introduces air bubbles, which can make a drink cloudy. (That doesn’t matter when some of the ingredients are opaque – think citrus juice.)
- But shake anyway if that’s your preference. We won’t tell, because we often do it ourselves.
- A maraschino cherry is the traditional garnish for a Manhattan. We don’t think that works well in this drink, however, because of the absinthe (the flavors clash). A lemon twist is excellent, however.
- Absinthe is an anise-flavored spirit. For years, it was illegal in the US and much of Europe (one of its ingredients was thought to be psychoactive and addictive). As a substitute, people would use a “pastis” like Pernod, which did not contain the problematic ingredient. The flavor of pastis is very similar to absinthe, and we often use it.
- BTW, “pastis” is just the generic French name for anise-flavored liqueur that resembles absinthe. It’s usually of quite good quality, and cheaper than absinthe.
- Real absinthe is back on the market now, so you might prefer to use that. It tends to be rather pricey, though. Not to mention high proof (100+).
- Because absinthe (or pastis) has such a strong flavor, you may want to use a bit less than we suggest in the recipe.
- Which Irish whiskey to use? The one you happen to have on hand, we say! Most liquor stores stock only a handful of brands, but all the ones we’ve tried work fine in cocktails.
- This drink, as the name suggests, is named after a shrub called the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Its fruit — called “sloes” — are much like small plums, though too tart to be eaten out of hand. It’s from this fruit that sloe gin is made.
- So it’s not surprising that there’s a version of this drink made with sloe gin. If you’d like to try it, here’s a recipe: 2 ounces sloe gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, and a dash or two of bitters (no absinthe). We’ve also seen a version that calls for 1½ ounces sloe gin, 1 ounce dry gin, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, and 2 or 3 dashes of orange bitters.
- There’s yet another version of the Blackthorn that is championed by cocktail expert Ted Haigh. This one calls for 2 ounces dry gin, ¾ ounce red Dubonnet, and ¾ ounce kirschwasser. It’s a tasty libation.
“Beautiful drink,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Great flavor, too. Makes me feel quite mellow and relaxed.”
“Lucky thing I learned about the Blackthorn,” I said. “Wouldn’t want you to feel anguished on St Patrick’s Day.”
“So it’s the luck of the Irish, you might say?” asked Mrs K R.
“Indeed,” I said. “Shall we extend our lucky streak with another of these?”
“Just one more,” said Mrs K R. “Or else it might be the snoring of the green.”
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We must be riding the cocktail wave together! This one looks fabulous. Since I seem to be open to whiskey's of late, need to do this one.
Hi Velva, you definitely need this one! It's really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
omg my husband would love this, I've got to go out and get some absinthe!
I love the addition of absinthe in this. And anything with whiskey is great in my book!
What a combination! I love Irish whiskey so I am pretty sure I would LOVE this drink!
Hi Sue, absinthe is good -- you'll find other uses for it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pamela, I wouldn't have thought of adding absinthe, but it really works. Good drink. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, Irish whiskey is good, isn't it? I bet you would love this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Absinthe is very fun to play around with, but it is so strong. I'm a lightweight though ;)
Hi Laura, absinthe is strong stuff. Good thing this drink only requires a small amount! :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a nice cocktail John...I now can use the whiskey I have...
Thanks for the post.
I hope you are enjoying your week :)
Another beautiful drink that is perfect for the coming Irish holiday. Thank you, John. :)
Hi Juliana, always happy to help you out with that whiskey! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ray, we do enjoy find drinks appropriate for the season. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It looks so beautiful that I want to have one too!
I don't drink alcohol, but it looks so good☺
Irish whiskey and absinthe? Really? Very intrigued. I remember the first time I had a sip of Irish whiskey, was not impressed lol. But times change our palate. Thanks for sharing!
Beautiful drink.. perfect for celebrations.. Thank you for visiting my blog..
Another magazine worthy photo! Yes, this would be perfect for sipping on St. Patrick's Day.
Hi Angie, it does have nice color. Not to mention flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Natalia, we used to never drink cocktails, but always loved the way they look. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Evelyne, we like Irish whiskey, but some of it's a bit light in flavor. But it works well in cocktails. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Krishna, doesn't this look nice? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, it's a lovely drink -- very nice flavor. :-) Thanks for that very nice comment.
Oh, now that's lovely! I think my Peter would like this one. Is it really almost St Patrick's Day already?! Wow, the year is zooming by.
John your lush photos have me craving a sip of this fabulous drink. The lemon twist is sublime!
St Patricks day is not even on my radar - hahahahahaha! Good thing I am not Irish or else they'd probably SHUN me! ha!
Wow, gorgeous color! Love the shot, John!
Hi Liz, the year really is going fast, isn't it? Almost spring for us. And fall for you. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Deb, you'll be happy if you give into the temptation and have a sip -- or two! -- of this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi GiGi, St. Pat's Day isn't on a lot of people's radar, but this drink should be! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, isn't this pretty? And so good! Thanks for the comment.
Your photos are stunning. It's cocktail hour here in California. I would love to have your drink right now.Prost!
Hi Gerlinde, Prost! Wish you had one of these too -- good drink. :-) Thanks for the very kind comment.
I am so relieved you didn't do a green drink! I have a thing for absinthe too (wanting to get one of those antique spoons for such a long time!) I could really get into this retry Cocktail. Plus, anything in a classy martini stems gets me!
Hi Eva, no green drinks here! Well, at least not for St. Patrick's Day. :-) We need to get one of those antique spoons, too -- very cool, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
I always enjoy a good Irish whiskey! The color and the clear, clean look of this drink is gorgeous. Thanks - and top of the morning to ya!
I love absinthe as much as I love whiskey, yet I have never had them together, so this drink sounds exciting. And I love that it's not green!
I think the husband will love this drink. Looks good.
Goldenlicious, shiny, and so appropriate to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.
Hi Tricia, great color, isn't it? Love clear drinks, although they can be a pain to photograph! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, doesn't absinthe have a nice flavor? Strong -- you definitely know you're drinking it! -- but captivating. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Peachy, bet he would! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, goldenlicious indeed! Good word. :-) Thanks for the comment.
That drink looks amazing! I don't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day like a lot people do here in NYC (i.e. get ridiculous drunk) but I'd sip on this gorgeous cocktail in a heart beat. Thanks for sharing!
I've just received a bottle of premium Irish Whiskey; maybe it's fate that I get your post today too. I have some absinthe too...the real deal even. Yes, fate and maybe the luck of the Irish. :)
You make cocktails not just a drink, but rather history and sometimes even science!!! I like that dedication :). I love to read all about your drinks. Thanks John.
Hi Yi, I used to work in NYC -- St. Pat's Day is a hoot! I usually managed to be traveling out of town on that day. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barbara, premium Irish whiskey? That'd be wonderful in this! We have some real deal absinthe too -- good, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Amira, we're definitely dedicated! :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a beautiful looking cocktail, never heard of absinthe before, my husband would love this. Thanks John!
I can't believe it's nearly St. Paddy's Day. It seems like the year just began. Well, if I have to get used to time moving so quickly, this cocktail will definitely put me in the right mood to do so.
Hi Cheri, absinthe has a nice flavor -- if you like anise, that is! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carolyn, time really is flying, isn't it? Spring is on the horizon. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely cocktail this is! Perfect for a St Patrick's Day celebration.
Hi Amy, this really is a good drink -- lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
What a perfect St. Patrick's day drink! love the flavors...
Hi Ashley, the flavors are wonderful in this! Thanks for the comment.
This drink has such a pretty colour and sounds delicious. I tried Jameson's Irish Whiskey for the first time lately and that is one smoooooth whiskey! Love it :)
I think St. Patrick's Day must be a lot of fun at your house!
Hi Robyn, we made this with Jameson's -- good stuff! :-) Thanks for the comment.
You so know I am going to try this next!!!!!! Great write up and history as always.
Hi Debra, this is a good one -- you'll enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Irish eyes would indeed be smiling after one (or two) of these!
Hi Beth, preferably two. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I do love absinthe and we have some; plus a bottle of Irish whiskey he brought home. No doubt this drink will entice him to stick around! Thanks John!
Hi Abbe, Manservant will love this! You, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
My husband and I are teetotallers but it looks so amazing :D
This sounds like a strong one! Love the colour.
Cheers to feeling relaxed on St Patty's and to this stunningly gorgoues Blackthorn! You sure do take some beautiful photos of drinks!
HI Taruna, nice thing about drinks is they look so interesting and colorful that you don't have to drink them -- just looking at them is fun! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Caroline, there is a bit of booze in this, yes. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Shashi, isn't this pretty? Tasty, too. Thanks for the kind comment.
Love Irish whiskey and this drink sounds great! I will not shake it, for sure! Great recipe!
Hi Pam, Irish whiskey is so smooth, isn't it? We love it too! Thanks for the comment.
Sounds delicious! Now I just have to get some Irish whiskey. I needed some for my whiskey collection anyway—I'm generally a single malt man, but I'm curious...
Hi Frank, different flavor than a single malt, but good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Nothing like a good Irish Whiskey. Have had a couple of cocktails with it, but this one doesn't look familiar. Going out to an Irish pub tomorrow night and I think I'll be ordering this cocktail. Looks delicious!
Hi MJ, Irish whiskey is rather nice, isn't it? You should definitely try this at the pub! Have fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a great cocktail to celebrate St. Patrick's Day! The only thing that's missing is some good old Irish music!
Hi Katerina, after a couple of these we'll all be singing those good old Irish tunes! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi JOHn! Just came across your blog and absolutely love your photos and your recipes. This is a great cocktail to celebrate St Patty's DAY! THanks for a great recipe! Have a great weekend!
Hi A & L, isn't this nice? Enjoy! And welcome. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Unfortunately I don't have any of these ingredients here and not in the bar either. The picture looks amazing with the blackthorn and dark background. I wish this was my cocktail tonight!
Hi Helene, it's a good drink! Sometime when you have the ingredients, you should give it a try. Thanks for the comment.
I made this last night for my husband, he thought it was wonderful. I only had a sip to taste but will definitely be making these up again! Thank you so much.
Hi Llamabean, isn't this a good drink? We really like its flavor! Glad you and your husband agreed. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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