AS WE enter into March, there is only one date that’s on every Irish person’s mind—and indeed anyone that has any sort of Irish ancestry. March 17 means more to the Irish than just our patron saint’s day, we have adopted it as a national day of pride in our country and our fellow countrymen and women, and sure why not? We are the greatest country in the world and that’s good enough reason for me to raise more than one glass to!
Today, when we think of St Patricks Day, we think of people decked out in green with pints of Guinness and the green beer flowing, but I was shocked to discover that drinking was banned in Ireland on St Patrick’s Day until the 1970s. As a child, I loved St Patrick’s Day because it meant we could break Lent, but you only need to go back one generation to find that the Church requested that the State close pubs, as they feared that the temptation would be too great for people.
But why have we taken to St Patrick’s Day to our hearts over every other? After all we have three patron saints and also a day when we commemorate the declaration of our independence. The answer—as with most thing—lies with our exiles and the British Empire’s cruel laws.
In the 1700s, long before the Great Hunger (An Gorta Mór), the USA was still receiving boatloads of Irish from across the sea to develop the new world—many as part of the British Army. Irish heritage and culture were oppressed in Ireland. Taking into account religion and the Battle of the Boyne, and with penal laws still fresh in the mind, celebrating a Catholic saint wasn’t exactly safe or encouraged. Celebrating Irish heritage and culture were, however, encouraged in the new world.
The first recorded St Patrick’s Day parade took place in Boston, with many other cities following. Cities would be decked out in blue, the colour associated with St Patrick. Some people wore green ribbons, but this wasn’t common. The green now associated with St Patrick didn’t become common until the 1800s, with the United Irishmen’s strike for freedom. After the failed revolution, the English passed a law outlawing wearing green, a tactic previously used in Scotland with traditional Highland dress.
In a now independent USA, the Irish were flourishing, our traditions were thriving, all under a green flag emblazoned with a golden harp. This flag was displayed in bars and halls all along the east coast of the US, celebrations became bigger and better as more and more Irish immigrants arrived on American shores. The tradition of dying beer and rivers green began and lighting buildings green also became popular. These new ways of celebrating have made it back home, across the Atlantic.
Now, I’m up for going green, but if anyone comes near my Guinness with green dye, they might not live to see another St Patrick’s Day. I don’t even like the thought of serving it with blackcurrant!
There are, however, other less controversial ways to drink green on St Patrick’s Day. You could make yourself a Venom. All you need is a shot of vodka, a shot of southern comfort, a blue alcopop and orange juice, but if you want to make a proper cocktail you always try my take on a Grasshopper (above).
—35ml Coole Swan (you can use any Irish Cream as a substitute)
—35ml Crème de Menthe
—35ml White Cacao
—Dairy Milk Mint Crisp (Irish Mint Crisp available in Malones Online Shop)
—In a shaker add: Coole Swan, Crème de Menthe, White Cacao, ice
—Shake it up
—In a tall glass add: Ice, chocolate sauce and Dairy Milk Mint Crisp
—Strain into the glass—Garnish with mint leaf
Please enjoy St Patrick’s Day responsibly!
Mickey Mullan is a proud Derryman, an award-winning spirit enthusiast and the Manager of Malones Bar in Glasgow