The Saint Patrick's Day feast almost always lands toward the end of Lent when the fasting and mortifications have become habitual and we are, perhaps, longing for an opportunity to celebrate the lives of one of our great saints.
Patrick was not, in fact, Irish but rather born of a wealthy Roman family. His name was Succat and in his youth he was abducted by Irish brigands and forced into slavery on the Emerald Isle. Patrick prayed faithfully for an opportunity to escape and eventually God led him away from his captors to safety. After studying to become a priest Patrick was sent back to Ireland as a bishop to convert the pagans. This he did with great success and become so beloved in the process that very few people even remembered that Patrick was not Irish. Those that knew did not care, at heart he was a true son of Eire. He loved the people and took their conversion to heart. Patrick died in 461 and his work lived on long beyond his life.
Such a great Saint deserves a little celebration right? So substitute another penance and indulge a little.
Your penance could be green beer. I never understood the appeal of that particular concoction. A Black and Tan, some Guinness, even a long tall Killian's is acceptable, encouraged even since beer is a most noble beverage. However the true drink of the day is that liquid amber, that ambrosia of Eire....whiskey.
The custom of imbibing alcohol on St. Patrick's Day comes from an old Irish legend. As the old story goes, St. Patrick was served a measure of whiskey that was much less than full. St. Patrick took this as an opportunity to teach a lesson of generosity to the innkeeper by telling him that in his cellar resided a monstrous devil who fed upon his dishonesty. The devil was large and bloated. In order to banish the devil, the innkeeper must change his ways. Sometime later St. Patrick returned to the hostelry and he found the owner generously filling the patrons' glasses to overflowing. He returned to the cellar with the innkeeper to find the devil emaciated and starved from the landlord's generosity. St. Patrick promptly banished the demon, proclaiming thereafter everyone should have a drop of the "hard stuff" on his feast day. This custom is known as Pota Phadraig or Patrick's Pot. The custom is known as "drowning the shamrock" because it is customary to float a leaf of the plant in the whiskey before downing the shot.( Paraphrased from Saint Patrick's Day History by Peggy Trowbridge)
It would be a shame not to imbibe in the good stuff in honor of the great man on his feast day. In my house we are fans of Jameson's a good Catholic whiskey, but there are several good ones available.
Another traditional libation is Irish Coffee. This is a wonderful close to a meal with friends.
2/3 part freshly brewed coffee
1/3 part Irish whiskey
2 tsps brown sugar
lightly whipped cream
Into a stemmed glass, put two teaspoonfuls of sugar, preferably brown; add one-third Irish Whiskey and two-thirds really hot, really strong black coffee, preferably freshly brewed, not instant. The glass should be filled with this mixture to within half an inch (1cm) of the brim. Stir well at this point to ensure all of the sugar is dissolved, and then carefully float over the back of a spoon a collar of lightly-whipped cream, so that the cream floats on the top of the coffee and whiskey. Do not stir any more. Serve the drink without a spoon or a straw, as part of the pleasure comes from sipping the hot coffee and whiskey through the cool cream.
A feminine cocktail...
1/2 oz Baileys Irish cream
1/2 oz Irish whiskey
3/4 oz Sloe gin
Combine in shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into rocks glass with ice.
Of course, a Baileys on the rocks is always very pleasant.
What's a good drink without a good toast? You can not beat the Irish for a toast so here is one for your feast day.
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.
'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'
Happy St. Patrick's Day!