The Ultimate Irish Drinks Cabinet

The Ultimate Irish Drinks Cabinet

byJohn Wilson

Issue: Nov/Dec
Date: 01/11/2021
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This Christmas, skip the mainstream brands and serve up a selection of artisan drinks from Irish producers. John Wilson has the lowdown, including some tasty tipples for the non-drinkers.

The Ultimate Irish Drinks Cabinet

This Christmas, skip the mainstream brands and serve up a selection of artisan drinks from Irish producers. John Wilson has the lowdown, including some tasty tipples for the non-drinkers.

 

One of the positives from the pandemic was an increased awareness of local Irish producers and the importance of supporting them. We now have a large group of small artisan producers making all kinds of drinks, syrups and cordials. So this Christmas, make sure you buy local wherever possible and choose drinks with the same care as your Christmas ingredients. To make things easier, here are eleven essentials for your Irish Christmas Drinks Cabinet.

 

Killahora Orchards

Looking for something sweet to sip with warm mince pies? As well as an excellent cider, Killahora Orchards produce a wonderful Rare Apple Ice wine that is gloriously rich and refreshing at the same time. Alternatively, after a bracing St. Stephen’s Day walk (or a Christmas Day swim) the Killahora Pom’O is an utterly delicious mix of apple juice and apple brandy that has been aged in Irish whiskey barrels.

Killahora Orchard

Killahora was set up by cousins Barry and Dave Watson and is very much a family-run operation today. They have planted an amazing 147 varieties of apple, as well as pears and other trees on their estate Glounthaune, Co. Cork.

 

Dublin City Whiskey

Jim O’Connor and Sheila Cooney began their business with Dublin City Gin, which, along with other botanicals, includes rhubarb grown on the banks of the Grand Canal in Dublin. Earlier this year, they added Dublin City Whiskey to their portfolio. Robust and full-bodied with a lovely smooth finish, it would make a great winter fireside drink, enjoyed with a drop of water.

 

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Ballyvolane House Spirits Company

Bertha GinBertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin is one of the leading artisan Irish gins. Anthony Jackson and Justin Green are the men behind the gin, made using water from the well at Ballyvolane House in Co. Cork. The classic G&T would be an obvious choice here, but their website features an interesting list of cocktails, including the White Lady and French 75.

 

In addition, elsewhere in this issue, we feature the Hedgerow Martini, a cocktail that includes their Sloe Bertha, a gin made using local and cultivated sloes. In recent months, the Bertha’s Navy Strength gin, which comes in at a hearty 57.1% abv, was awarded two gold stars at the Great Taste Awards. In case you were wondering, Big Bertha was a legendary cow who died just short of her 49th birthday, having given birth to 39 calves during her long life. Bertha’s Revenge gin, produced with whey alcohol from local dairy farms in Cork, is named in her honour.

 

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Mr. Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial

Mr Jeffares Blackcurranr CordialOver the festive season you will need something alcohol-free on hand; for anyone driving, and to cater for the growing number of non-drinkers. A bottle or two of Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial is an essential part of your drinks cabinet for mocktails, cocktails or simply for a refreshing long drink when mixed with sparkling water.

 

A drop or two of cordial in a glass of sparkling wine will transform it into a Kir Royale with an Irish touch. See the Mr Jeffares website for further cocktail ideas. All of the blackcurrants used to make this blackcurrant cordial are grown by Des Jeffares on his farm in Co. Wexford.

 

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Five Farms

Everyone loves a cream liqueur whether simply poured over ice or as an ingredient in an espresso martini. But, in the cold winter weather, why not use it to warm things up a little in an Irish coffee or a very indulgent mug of hot chocolate?

Five Farms Stonewall Shot

Five Farms is a luxury cream liqueur. As the name suggests, all of the milk is sourced from five dairy farms in West Cork that enjoy a unique micro-climate. Everything bar the vanilla (they use genuine Madagascan vanilla extract) comes from the county of Cork; the cream, the milk, the neutral spirit and the whiskey.

 

Wild About

The Wild About award-winning Merry Berry is another essential multi-purpose drink for the festive season. Made from blackberry juice infused with cinnamon, orange, cloves and star anise it can be added to warm Port and red wine to create a sophisticated mulled wine, or simply added to hot water for an alcohol-free mulled ‘wine’.

 

As with Mr. Jeffares Blackcurrant cordial, you can add a spoonful to a glass of sparkling or still wine to create a kir or kir royale. Alternatively, their Cardamom and Ginger Syrup makes an intriguing addition to a G&T. Wild About produces a range of foods, the vast majority grown by the Falconers on their permaculture farm in Co. Wexford.

 

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Wild Irish Foragers

Wild Irish Foragers makes a huge range of syrups and shrubs from handpicked fruits, herbs and flowers, all of which can be used to make cordials. This is very much a local, family-run operation.

 

Sharon and Gordon Greene source virtually all of their ingredients from their own farm near Birr, Co. Offaly. Their Elderberry Syrup would make the perfect addition to a Kir or Kir Royale, and more inventive mixologists in bars around the country use their Gorseflower or Honeysuckle Syrup as ingredients in both mocktails and cocktails.

 

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The Apple Farm of Tipperary

If you fancy ringing in the New Year with an alcohol-free sparkling drink, then you should certainly consider the delicious Sparkling Apple Juice from The Apple Farm. Dry and full of natural fruit, it is a great alternative to the masses of confected sweet sparkling drinks on offer.

 

At the same time, you could pick up a few bottles of Con’s Real Irish Cider (possibly for a warming mulled cider after a swim on Christmas Day?), some of the Karmine Apple Juice and a few of the other pure fruit juices produced on the farm. The Apple Farm in Tipperary, run by the Traas family, has been one of the leading Irish apple producers in Ireland for the last fifty years.

 

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Wicklow Way Wines

We may not be able to produce much wine in this country, but Wicklow Way Wines uses 100% Irish fruit to make a range of delicious fruit wines.

 

The Móinéir Strawberry wine is lighter and fresher, good by itself or with starters. The Raspberry wine would go nicely with turkey and other white meats, whereas if you are serving venison or beef, the richer, more full-bodied Blackberry wine makes a great partner.

 

Frustrated by the small range of Irish drinks available, Brett Stephenson and Pamela Walsh set up Wicklow Way Wines in 2015. They produce a range of award-winning fruit ‘wines’ in their modern winery in Newtown, Co. Wicklow

 

Llewelyn’s Orchard

As well as producing a range of apple juices, vinegar, ciders, David Llewellyn has been growing vines in north county Dublin for almost two decades now. Some are grown undercover and provide grapes for Lusca, his red wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

 

He has another red wine from the Rondo grape grown outdoors. More recently he has started producing a very good dry sparkling rosé, which would be perfect for New Year’s Eve and any other celebrations. The red wine would go nicely with most red meats and game.

 

Jackford Spirits

Jackford GinJackford Irish Potato Gin is made using Rooster potatoes, and while it has a cockerel on the label it doesn’t actually taste of potato. The Roosters give the gin a unique and lovely smooth texture that works perfectly with the eleven botanicals used in the infusion.

 

While you could certainly use it in cocktails, this Christmas, Jackford has released their Christmas Cracker, which includes two miniatures – a handy Christmas gift?  The Stafford family have been farming in County Wexford for three hundred years.

 

Many people will be familiar with their Slaney Farm potatoes and strawberries. They have also been making gin for the last four years, garnering countless awards during that time.

 

 

 

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