I went to an Irish Catholic school where several of the nuns were direct from Ireland, replete with charming accents– though the nuns themselves were rather sour. One of the nuns walked into my third grade classroom, declared that it was filthy, gave two boys a toothbrush, spat on the floor, and told the boys to start scrubbing. I sometimes think I might have known more Irish nuns than Irish families. The Irish families I did know lived in houses filled with crucifixes. I’m sure they must have had other decorative knick-knacks, but I only remember crucifixes. For me, everything Irish was a bit severe and austere– from the dour nuns to the simple cabbage and beef we ate on St. Patrick’s Day.
Then one Halloween, the Irish Catholic school burned down under suspicious circumstances, and I was relocated to the Italian Catholic school. The Italian school was completely different. Holidays were more cheerful. The clergy enjoyed themselves (and their wine) a good deal more than the nuns ever had. The food at church events tasted better. Cannoli, ravioli, stromboli. And suddenly, St. Patrick was eclipsed by St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s Day is two days after St. Patrick’s Day, and the Italians loved it. Everyone ate zeppole (a little like cannoli, but better, so, so good), and wore red and white, and went to the Knights of Columbus parade. There were flowers and candles, an explosion of color.
Mind you, I’m not trying to pick favorites. I’m just telling you what I experienced.
For this St. Patrick’s Day, I plan to forgo the green beer– in fact, I’ll probably pass up the beer altogether. Instead, I’m mixing up a cocktail with a bit of a mixed heritage: half Irish whiskey, and half Italian amaro.
1 ounce Irish Whiskey, Bushmills 10 used here
1 ounce amaro, Averna used here
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 ounce demerara syrup
luxardo cherry garnish
Combine whiskey, amaro, lemon juice and syrup together in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.
There’s a nice contrast between the light, floral whiskey and the spicy, rich amaro. It starts with a punch of sour flavor that immediately moves into sweetness, and the bite of the whiskey and the lasting bitterness of the amaro stay with you until the next sip. It’s a cocktail with a lot of character. Like those Irish nuns. And those Italian priests.
***This recipe was originally created for Serious Eats and appeared on the site this past week.