7 Festive Irish Drinks to Sip for St. Patrick’s Day (And No, They’re Not Green!)
This holiday is all about enjoying a tipple — or three.
St. Patrick’s Day is typically celebrated with good cheer and free-flowing drinks — often of the beer variety. Don’t fret, however, if your tastes lean more toward cocktails. There are plenty of sophisticated sips with which to honor your Irish pride. Below are seven authentic Irish drinks — and an explanation of the rich history behind them — for your March 17 celebrating pleasure. Sláinte!
What’s the deal with St. Patrick’s Day drinking, anyway?
The pint is to Ireland what wine is to France. This is likely due to the lore of Irish pubs. In Ireland, the pub is a social setting, a place of friendly conversation and hearty laughter, and visitors to the pub, from locals to American tourists, are received with good cheer — in fact, the Irish have an old Gaelic phrase they’ll often great people with, “Céad míle fáilt,” which translates to “a hundred thousand welcomes.” It’s no wonder, then, that a 2022 survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveller ranked Ireland as the friendliest country in Europe.
As for the pint’s centrality to Irish social life — and St. Patrick’s Day, in particular — it’s got a little to do with a lot of things. For one, St. Patrick’s Day occurs during Lent, the 40-day period preceding Easter that, for Catholics and several other Christian denominations, is marked by austerity and abstinence. First celebrated in 1631, the holiday was considered by some to be a “day off” from the church’s stringent Lenten rules.
The fact of St. Patrick’s Day’s proximity to the Spring Equinox (which is usually around March 20), also plays a role, as the season’s promise of new beginnings manifests in cheery optimism and the call for the clinking of glasses. According to scholars of Irish folklore, even St. Patrick himself enjoyed a tipple; and as the BBC notes, “a little tipsiness has always been the way to remember the saint.” (That said, one should always drink responsibly — on holidays and every day.)
So, without further ado, here are seven drinks that will help you celebrate St. Pat’s in proper Irish style.
1. Beer: Guinness
Guinness is probably the best-known Irish drink, and with good reason. It’s been around since 1759 (yep, 15 years before the US was founded) and is still a staple at bars in both Ireland and the US. The beer was founded by Arthur Guinness, a brewer who signed a 9,000 year (you read that right!) lease on the St. James’ Gate Brewery in Dublin. Known for its dark, velvety appearance and full-bodied taste, Guinness is a classic that pairs well with hearty comfort foods of the meat and potato variety.
2. Cider: Magners
If you prefer cider to beer (whether you’re gluten-free or simply prefer the sweeter taste), you can still get in touch with your Irish side. Magners is an Irish cider that was created in 1935, making it the oldest Irish cider there is. This drink is made from 17 varieties of apples (sourced from their own orchards in Ireland) and still uses the same recipe its founder, William Magner, created over 80 years ago. Pair a crisp glass of Magners with creamy pasta or risotto dishes, cold cuts, or roast pork.
3. Liqueur: Baileys
Got a sweet tooth? Baileys is the drink for you. This Irish liqueur combines cream and whiskey with chocolate and vanilla flavors; for a truly decadent dessert-in-a-glass, just add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Founded in 1974, it was the world’s first cream liqueur, and every year, a whopping 200 million liters of fresh Irish milk is used to make Baileys. While it doesn’t have quite as extensive a history, Bailey’s does have an impressive Irish lineage: one of its founders, David Gluckman, had previously helped create Kerrygold, a popular Irish butter brand that’s still around today. Baileys may be known as a “girly drink,” but we think that’s a good thing.
4. Wine: Bunratty Meade
When you think of Irish booze, beer and whiskey are probably the first types that come to mind — but Ireland also produces a variety of wines. One of the most storied Irish wines, Bunratty Meade, was discovered by monks in the middle ages, and is known as the drink of the High Kings of Ireland. Sometimes referred to as honey wine, Meade is the most ancient of alcoholic beverages. Total Wine & More describes Bunratty as “a medium sweet wine, with a wide taste appeal” that comes from “an ancient Irish recipe of pure honey, fruit of the vine, and natural herbs.” This wine is produced on the property of a 15th century castle, so drinking it will take you on a historical journey. Try pairing it with steak or cheese for an old-fashioned delicacy.
5. Gin: Drumshanbo
Founded by Irish spirits pro PJ Rigney, who previously worked for Baileys in the ’90s, Drumshanbo gin may not be ancient — but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. Drumshanbo is made in a small Irish town of the same name, and is distilled from botanicals sourced from around the world (including gunpowder tea from China). The gin has a citrusy taste that’s perfect for cocktails, and Rigney recommends pairing it with spicy food.
6. Vodka: Boru
Known as “The Vodka of Kings,” Boru is one of the few Irish vodkas, and named for an ancient Irish monarch. Made from Irish spring water and local grain, Boru has “a fresh, slightly bready aroma with a pleasant grassiness,” according to their site. Like Drumshanbo gin, Boru vodka is a relatively recent creation. In fact, it was also co-founded by PJ Rigney, the founder of Drumshanbo. Boru doesn’t have the same name recognition with Americans as other Irish drinks, but it gets rave reviews for its pure and subtle taste. Try a Boru martini with a nice piece of fish.
7. Whiskey: Jameson
Ireland is famous for its many whiskeys. There’s no shortage to choose from, but the most well-known and widely accessible in the US is probably Jameson. Jameson was founded by John Jameson in 1780, and their whiskey is triple distilled from barley grown locally in Ireland and aged in oak barrels; Jameson has been sold in bottles since 1968, but before that, it was only available in full casks. It’s mellow and easy to drink — unlike other whiskey varieties that boast a bolder flavor — and can be used in all kinds of cocktails. Jameson suggests pairing their whiskey with a charcuterie board.
We like a Jameson, Ginger Ale, and Lime cocktail: Simply fill a highball glass with ice and pour in a shot of Jameson, top off the glass with ginger ale (roughly one part Jameson to three parts ginger ale), and stir briefly to mix. Squeeze in a wedge of lime, and you have a perfectly refreshing sip.
That’s how you say “cheers” in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. However you celebrate March 17 — whether with a pint of Guinness or a fifth of Irish gin — be sure to toast St. Patrick with a smile.