While I’m not opposed to raising a lovely pint or two of Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t tend to go all out for the day. I’ve spent too many St. Pat’s Days dodging people who were sloppily drunk and asking for trouble to fully embrace it. I’m old school. Like, too old to be acting like I was still in school. I prefer to keep my celebrations grown and sexy—for me that means sipping on some good whiskey. I’ll leave the shenanigans, and the green beer, and the horrible next0day hangover to others. That being said, last year I extolled the virtues of a couple of newer Irish whiskies. This year, I became acquainted with Teeling Irish Whiskey.
As a brand, Teeling has a long and storied history. The Teeling family first opened their craft distillery in Marrowbone Lane in the Liberties section of Dublin in 1782. Back then, and for decades upon decades after, the whiskey business boomed in Ireland and Dublin was the epicenter of it all boasting 37 different distilleries in total. But Prohibition in here coupled with the Irish War of Independence and its subsequent trade war dealt a crippling blow to the whiskey industry in Ireland. It limped along but by 1976, the last distillery in Dublin was shuttered. Luckily for the world, the latest generation of Teelings, brothers Stephen and Jack, have revived the brand in 2011 and opened a new distillery in Dublin in 2015.
OK that’s the history, what about the drink? In a word: fabulous. OK, I’ll use two words: fabulously smooth. Irish whiskey is the perfect entry for those who are brown-spirit but shy. While the flavors are complex, the traditional distillation process results in a less harsh experience for novices. Start with Teelings Small Batch, which is their flagship blend of 70 percent Irish grain and 30 percent malt whiskies, matured in rum casks. (We’ll take a look at their Single Grain Whiskey at another time). The result is creamy and slightly sweet, with the fruity flavors (apples and apricots) as well as a nice bit of spiciness. The rum casks impart hints of caramel and molasses. A bottle will set you back around $40.
It’s really quite delicious on it’s own, but I discovered that where it really shines is in cocktails. I was recently re-introduced to Teeling at a dinner held by the company and presided over by Teeling Whiskey Global Ambassador Kevin Hurley and Conor Sweeney, who manages the brand here in the US. Over the course of the evening, I tried it neat and in an Irish coffee, which was great. But I was absolutely blown away by the Teeling hot toddy, which they cheekily named Damn Fine Hot Whiskey. Turns out it’s easy to make at home, and since the weather is still icy, I suggest you whip up this recipe to keep you warm and happy until the spring thaw.
Now don’t worry if you’ve never infused anything. Just think of it as steeping—soaking a bunch of spices and herbs in a liquid. Once you’ve got your ingredients together, measure them out, throw them in a jar and let it sit. It’s like making a really lazy cup of tea. Here’s the particulars:
Damn Fine Hot Whiskey
2 cups Teeling Small Batch
½ cup Honey
½ cup Sugar
½ cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Full Unwaxed Lemon Peel
3 Large Cinnamon Sticks
5 Whole Cloves
1 Star Anise Pod
5 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
Add all the ingredients into a large (1L) jar and give it a good shake. Allow to sit and infuse for about a week shaking regularly.
Strain out solids and transfer to a clean bottle (should keep for up to 2 weeks). Makes approximately 20 oz. of whiskey cordial / 12 servings.
To serve, warm a heat proof mug or glass by filling with hot water and discarding once warmed. Pour 2 oz. of whiskey cordial into your mug and top with 5 oz. of hot (not boiling) water. Go nuts with the garnish: a swath of lemon peel studded with 3-5 cloves, a fresh rosemary sprig, a single star anise pod or a combo of all.
Sip it out of your favorite mug or make an adult teaparty out of it and fill a teapot with hot water and set out some teacups for guests to serve themselves. Now that’s St. Patrick’s Day TheLUSHiouslife way!