They say Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the US these days, which is great news. The category sure has seen its share of dark days.
No one knows the full story, but Celtic monks are the likely fathers of Irish whiskey. Whiskey-making was popular enough among innkeepers and laypersons to require a license by 1556. By the mid-17th century, the King was also charging duties based on quantity. The vibrant aqua vitae business took a major blow when the Act of 1779 taxed whiskey-makers by the still. (Their solution? Build bigger stills.) One quarter of legal distilleries closed or went underground owing to this tax.
When Ireland’s own Aenas Coffey invented the patent still, his countrymen scoffed. In the Scotch lowlands, however, the stills took off, turning Scotch into a mass-produced product that could be exported far and wide, with all the financial benefits that entailed. Then there was a famine, a major blow to the amount of Irish grain available for distilling. Then a World War, then a war with England and trade embargoes on all Irish goods – closing off the British export market. Then American Prohibition came, cutting off another important market across the Great Pond. During World War II, the Irish government closed distillation down completely. But these days, that famous Irish luck seems to be working for whiskey makers. The spirit is popular with younger drinkers and, because of its smooth flavor and mixability, is allegedly a big hit with ladies.
Of course, we LUPEC ladies have always been fans, especially when sampled in one of these, a classic from the Waldorf-Astoria circa 191O introduced to us by David Wondrich.
1 ounce Irish whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
3 dashes Absinthe
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass.
Strain into a chilled vintage cocktail glass.