In the St. Paddy's Day Pink

Wild Irish Rose cocktail from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. Saint Patrick's Day is fast approaching. And as in the case of most cataclysmic social events, the time is nigh to draft a civilized drinking plan.

We're no stranger to Saint Patrick's Day's liquid staples. A pint of Guinness or "whiskey, neat" is always welcome. When faced with a well-made Irish coffee, a polite "No, thank you" has never, ever crossed our lips. But this year our drink in hand will be a home-crafted, adventurous alternative to those Irish classics.

Saint Patrick's Day began as a religious feast day for Ireland's patron saint. Over the years, it has evolved into a festival celebrating Irish culture with parades, music, food, and a whole lot of everything green. Green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640s, but green-tinted cocktails and free-flowing green beer are plebeian persuasions best left elsewhere.

Since the founding of the chivalric Order of Saint Patrick in 1783, the color blue, not green, has been associated with Saint Patrick. Although the Order has no remaining Knights, the seats are occupied by members of Ireland's St. Patrick's Cathedral Choir, dressed in Saint Patrick's blue.

Fortunately, this confusing color association hasn't led to a tradition of blue-hued Saint Patrick's drinks. Doing so would complicate things for both the Tiki crowd and the beer-tinters alike.

Besides favoring blue robes, Saint Patrick (a.k.a. Patricius) wasn't even from Ireland. He was most likely born in Scotland, and his real name is assumed to be Maewyn Succat. He did very much like shamrocks, though.

So, in light of this thematic confusion, where does one turn when seeking out a tipple befitting bravely tenacious Irish emigrants with nary a shamrock or pot o' green dye in sight?

Why, The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual, of course.

New York City's Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog has earned top industry accolades, including "World's Best Bar," by combining creative cocktails with a strong Irish heritage. It's all chronicled in their marvelous book, from the inspiring behind-the-scenes story of the bar's success to their unique process of adapting historical drink recipes to modern tastes.

Closeup of the Wild Irish Rose cocktail from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual.
A pink cocktail, colored without artifice.
At first glance, the Wild Irish Rose (page 119) seems like a proudly nationalistic flight of fancy. Upon further inspection (and preparation), it's an extremely clever cocktail, replete with interesting flavor nuances as well as a surprising amount of (unintentional) symbolism. And, it's rose pink!

Wild Irish roses are not the florid denizens found in suburban English gardens. They are the rosy pink faces peeking out from tangled briars throughout the countryside, their brambles tenaciously making their way through hedges and across ditches, thriving despite adversity.

This idyllic image brings to mind the ballad, "My Wild Irish Rose." Composer Chancellor John (Chauncey) Olcott's passion for his Irish heritage was so great that he exclusively wrote music about the Irish and Ireland, effectively defining "Irish music" today.

And finally, remember Saint Patrick? A touch of peat in a cocktail raised in his honor seems divinely inspired.

The Dead Rabbit Wild Irish Rose

Serves 1

Egg white foam on the Wild Irish Rose cocktail from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual.
You will need an 8-ounce stemmed punch or large coupe glass. (I used a champagne coupe.) This drink calls for homemade pomegranate syrup (grenadine) which is easy to make and should be part of any home bartender’s arsenal.

As is the case of most Dead Rabbit cocktails, this drink is much more than the sum of its parts: substitute other ingredients at your own risk.

  • 1 ounce Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey*
  • 1 ounce Laird’s Applejack Bonded Proof
  • 1 ounce Pama Pomegranate Liqueur**
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce pomegranate syrup (or use your own grenadine)
  • 3 dashes Bittermens Burlesque Bitters
  • 3 dashes Pernod Absinthe
  • 1 large farm-fresh egg white
Chill punch glass in refrigerator. Add all the ingredients to a shaker; fill with ice; shake. Strain into the chilled punch glass.

Cocktail notes:
* Using non-peated Irish whiskey offers a slightly different but equally-pleasing drink.
** Pama is a unique blend of pomegranate juice, vodka, and tequila.

pomegranate syrup

Makes about 1 1/2 cups syrup

Also known as grenadine, the flavor of this easy syrup surpasses all commercially-prepared products.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup top-quality pomegranate juice (such as POM)
  • 1/2 cup water
In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer ingredients until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat; let cool slightly. Transfer to sterilized glass bottle(s); cool completely.

Recipe adapted from:
The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual: Secret Recipes and Barroom Tales from Two Belfast Boys Who Conquered the Cocktail World by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Ben Schaffer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2015.
Wild Irish Rose cocktail from The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual.
A cocktail for the Irish (and Irish at heart), perfect for the green-clad sophisticate who prefers to remain as the last one standing.