St. Patrick’s Day Customs, Ancient and New

Hello Fellow Drinkers With the Saints!

You may have noticed that I have more or less observed radio silence during this season of Lent, but today calls for an exception. Even though St. Patrick’s Day is not technically a first-class feast that trumps the days of Lent, it is for many Irishmen–and indeed, a lot of dioceses in the United States with large Irish-American populations grant exemptions to Lent on this day. That doesn’t make today Mardi Gras, of course, but it does mean that we can post some drinking suggestions for the day.

Drinking With the Saints offers a long list of Irish potables, especially in the category of beer and whiskey. And regarding cocktails, besides the ever popular Irish Coffee (which may be just the thing depending on the weather outside), we include the recipe for the recently invented Irish Ale Cocktail. It only dawned on me after the book’s publication that the Irish Ale Cocktail is more or less an “Irish Mule,” which is like a Moscow Mule except that it substitutes vodka for an Irish whiskey.  Here is the recipe now:irish ale cocktail

Irish Ale Cocktail
2 oz. Irish whiskey
3 oz. ginger beer
3 lime wedges
Fill a highball glass with ice–or a copper mug if you have one. Squeeze the lime into it and then pour in the whiskey. Top with the ginger beer and stir gently.


You can combine your newfangled Irish Ale/Irish Mule (or a dram of good Irish whiskey) with some venerable Irish customs on this day, such as:

  1. When you toast, say “Slainte!” (SLAUNCH-uh), which is Irish Gaelic for “To your health!”
  2. Prove to others that you are both knowledgeable and pretentious by referring to Irish whiskey as simply “Irish,” in the same way that you call scotch whiskey “scotch.” For this indeed is the correct usage, even though it sounds odd to the untrained ear.
  3. Observe the St. Patrick’s Day custom of Pota Phadraig (“Patrick’s Pot”) Also called drowning the shamrock“drowning the shamrock” because a clover leaf is sometimes floated on the drink, the custom simply involves drinking a full measure of whiskey in memory of a legend about St. Patrick and a stingy innkeeper who gave him a glass of whiskey that was far from full. Patrick told the man that a devil was living in his cellar which was causing him to be stingy and dishonest and that the only way the man could banish the devil was by filling each glass to its brim. When Patrick returned to the inn later, he saw that each cup was full and proclaimed the devil duly exorcised. Even if whiskey is not your cup of tea, the legend is a good lesson in generosity.

By the way, does anyone know how to pronounce Pota Phadraig?

A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all! May the Apostle of Ireland who brought the light of the Gospels to an entire island nation do the same again–for us, and for all the sons and daughters of Erin.

St Patrick