New York City's Best Irish Whiskey Cocktails

5 of the city’s top bartenders share recipes for their favorite whiskey-based tipples

It’s that time of year again, when New York City — along many other locales around the world — becomes awash in a sea of emerald green. The Guinness flows like the mighty Mississippi and Ireland’s amazing array of whiskies are enjoyed in myriad ways.

In regards to the latter, drinking them neat is never a bad idea, perhaps with a chaser of cold, briny pickle juice in what has become a cult shot amongst the city’s barkeeps — the "pickle back." Sounds weird (and it is), but you’re going to have to trust me on this one, folks.

But of course, what spirit is safe from the curious minds and dexterous hands of Gotham’s finest mixologists? Irish whiskey (America’s fastest growing spirit category right now, for the record), with its many expressions, makes an incredible base across many drink styles. What’s more, its versatility in pairing with many other ingredients is the reason why it’s the current darling of the cocktail cognoscenti. Sure, many bars will be boasting that they make the "best" Irish coffee, but for something with a little more sophistication, get yourself to one of these watering holes and put yourself at the mercy of some of the country’s great bartending talents.

Jim Meehan of PDT fame and author of the recently released PDT Cocktail Book  could create a slew of Irish-based cocktails in his sleep. Indeed, his new book contains some gems, including the Weeski, Paddy Wallbanger, and the Lake George to name but a few. This one here has got spring all over it: light, floral, aromatic, and elegant.

"It's a bit of a Bee's Knees variation (gin, honey syrup, lemon) with lots of floral ingredients since they'll be popping up soon," says PDT owner Jim Meehan, of the Flower Powers cocktail.

Just around the corner at the award winning Death & Co, the always-jovial and hugely talented Joaquin Simo continues to turn out some truly mind-blowing cocktails, like this one, called The Paddy Melt.

"It's an easy-drinking riff on a Whiskey Sour that appeals to drinkers of all ages and sexes,' explains Simo. "The floral notes of the Meletti complement the chamomile in the soft, mellow 80-proof Overholt. Notes of toffee, honey, caramel, and butterscotch are balanced with grassy herbaceousness and bright acidity, making for a refreshing drink with considerable complexity."

A little further south in Nolita, new bar Mother’s Ruin has become ground zero for off-duty bartenders, most of them knocking back shots of Irish whiskey into the wee early hours. One drink co-owner Richard Knapp is especially psyched about serving up on St. Patty’s Day is the Cameron's Kick, whose lineage can be traced back to Harry McElhone's ABC of Mixing Cocktails (1922).

"I love the drink because it is a confluence of ingredients that shouldn't necessarily be put in to the same glass together. Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, and orgeat syrup (French by origin) represent three cultures that might all individually object to the cocktail. The delicate sweetness and nuttiness of the orgeat is the secret, as it acts as the perfect mediator between the whiskies and foils the tartness of the lemon juice perfectly. I think a good cocktail is always more than the sum of its parts and this drink certainly fits that bill. Not to mention, Most guests will stick with this one all night."

Australian bartender Sam Ross has been behind the stick of Milk & Honey for more than six years, serving up such salacious twists on the classics like The Tipperary.

"I'm not a huge fan of the lighter-style continuous-still Irish whiskies, as I don't find they stand up in any sort of a cocktail, short of a Highball. The Red Breast, however, is a different kettle of fish. Huge and robust in all its pot-still glory, it drinks somewhere between a hearty single malt and a well matured rye. An Irish Manhattan of sorts, the classic Tipperary stands tall as the doyen of the Irish/stirred cocktail category."

It would seem only fitting that we had some input from a couple of Irishmen on the verge of their national day. Recently arrived in New York is young gun Jack McGarry, now holding court at the hidden bar Bathtub Gin in Chelsea. He, too, is an avid fan of the Tipperary Cocktail, saying that "the Tipperary cocktail is truly a jewel in the Manhattan family. Closing in on the Patty’s Day celebrations, I love the anecdotal note that Albert Stevens Crockett, author of The Old Waldorf-Astoria Cocktail Book, declares that the drink takes its name from the old World War I song 'It's a Long Way to Tipperary' and this Irishman certainly is a long from Tipperary on this St. Patrick’s Day."

Across in Williamsburg at the Brooklyn Star, Irish owner Simon Gibbons’ go-to dram is Power’s, which he shakes into an Irish Flip with port, cream, sugar, and a whole egg. Delicious!

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