I like Ireland.
The Emerald Isle is well named. Full of lush greenery and surrounded by the sapphire waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland is a picturesque locale. When I was there last year, I visited the Cliffs of Moher, on the west coast. If you’re looking for a laidback vacation, I heartily recommend it.
Other than the breathtaking scenery, however, Ireland has much else to offer. The people are friendly and open. Many of them congregate in the local pubs in the evenings to enjoy tunes both traditional and modern. Many international Irish acts began on the pub circuit- not the least of which was U2.
Of course, what’s great music without a cool pint of brew? Ireland is the home of Guinness.
I have a fond memories of Ireland, and I do feel a tug drawing me back every year. Fortunately, St Patrick’s Day gives me an opportunity to revisit Ireland in spirit every year.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on 17 March to commemorate St Patrick, who is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland. It’s also an opportunity for the Irish to celebrate Irish culture and usually involves parades, festivals, and a lot of drinking.
I think you can see where this is going.
I’m not Irish, but I can enjoy a good pint of Guinness like everyone else.
I must confess that I’m a recent convert to stout, but after my trip to Ireland, I began to appreciate its rich, satisfying creaminess and pleasant coffee-like roasted aroma and taste. Best of all, it’s smooth but not gassy, which makes it an excellent drink to pair with food.
The Guinness company as we know it today was founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, who got a 9,000 year(!) lease at Saint James’ Gate in Dublin to start his brewery- all for the paltry cost of 45 pounds a year. It’s been brewing steadily ever since. The storehouse still stands today, and is one of Dublin’s main attractions.
The most important part of judging a great Guinness is the creamy head. The head should be about 2cm high, and the rest of the glass should be filled with dark ruby red stout. Reportedly, it takes 119.5 seconds to achieve this “perfect” pour, but because of the economics of bar service, lower quality bars skip this step and pour a whole giant foamy head that goes all the way down to the bottom the harp. When that happens, the customers are basically drinking cream.
Of course, I felt the need to put a Singaporean spin on an Irish holiday, so I went ahead and created my own spin on an Irish brew- Irish kopi.
The coffee should be a familiar sight to most Singaporeans – the whole country is basically fuelled by it.
45ml Irish Whiskey
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup Black coffee
Add the sugar into a glass and top up with coffee till the glass is almost full. Stir till the sugar is completely dissolved in the coffee. Add the whiskey and stir again vigorously. Pour the cream in till the drink reaches the brim and serve.
Irish Coffee is actually a fairly recent invention. Legend goes that it was created at Shannon Airport in Ireland by a bartender named Joe Sheridan. A flight was delayed because of heavy snowfall and to warm up the freezing passengers, Sheridan added in a twist of his own: a shot of Irish whiskey. One of the passengers was an American writer named Stanton Delaplane, who brought the idea back to San Francisco’s Buena Vista cafe. Irish Coffee has entered popular imagination ever since.
Normally, you wouldn’t stir the cream in an Irish coffee, so the end result basically resembles (and tastes like, for that matter) a very hot pint of Guinness. In this case, I chose to do it the Singaporean way- vigorous stirring using a metal spoon till the whole mixture resembles liquid peanut butter. It’s not quite the traditional method, but a local boy like me prefers coffee served the local way.
In keeping with the green theme of the holiday, I elected to serve the coffee with Singapore pandan chiffon cake. Everyone knows the best way to eat pandan cake and coffee…
Sweet pandan aromas combined with the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee to form an irresistible combination. The coffee soaked into the porous chiffon cake easily, and every bite released an explosion of flavour. The sweetness of the cake, sugar and cream balanced the acidity and bitterness of the coffee, with a robust finishing punch delivered by the whiskey.
Yum. Every bit as pleasant as I thought it would be.
Saint Patrick’s Day. Definitely one of my favourite festivals of the year- you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it, only thirsty.