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Good libations for your celebrations!
Is deacair amhran a radh gan gloine - It's hard to sing with an empty glass.

Contributed by Hartson Dowd

Whether planning for a family feast or a festive gathering of your one hundred closest friends, your choice of drinks is as wide as the Irish Sea!

Sherry is traditional at most special occasions in Ireland, as is whiskey and stout. Cider is also popular, and through the centuries, the Irish have always enjoyed their cup of punch! Herewith, a few recipes for some special concoctions you can offer your guests, in addition to the pints of plain and the jars of whiskey.

Mulled Wine
This is excellent for a winter party; the following quantities serve 6 to 8 people - one wine glass each.

1 bottle of red wine such as Claret or Burgundy
The peel of an orange
Half a lemon
A piece each of cinnamon and root ginger
2 cloves,
A pinch of mace
4 oz sugar

Boil the chopped orange peel, thinly sliced lemon, cinnamon, root ginger, cloves, mace and sugar in 1/4 pint of water for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the sugar melts. Add the red wine, stir and heat until nearly boiling. Strain and serve hot.

White Wine Cup
Serves 8 to 10 - one wine glass each

1 bottle of Hock or other white wine
An equal quantity of soda water or lemonade (or a mixture of both)
A few leaves of mint
Thinly sliced lemon
Optional: 1 wine glass of brandy

Chill the wine and soda water or lemonade, mix together just before serving, pour into glasses with ice cubes, and garnish each with a slice of lemon and a mint leaf.

Red Wine Cup
Substitute red wine for the white and proceed as for the White Wine Cup, except garnish with thinly sliced oranges and a few sprinkles of grated nutmeg.

Irish Whiskey Punch
Makes 1 serving (and also makes for a grand nightcap or "comfort cup" when you're under the weather!)

1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
Boiling water
1 jigger Irish whiskey
3 cloves
1 slice lemon

Warm the glass. Add the sugar and dissolve in a little of the boiling water. Add the whiskey, cloves, slice of lemon, and fill up with boiling water.

Black Velvet
This is a very "snob drink" and goes well with oysters. It's also considered to be good for a hangover.

Irish stout
Inexpensive champagne

Half-fill a tall glass with the bubbly and then fill to the top with the stout. 1 serving.

Sloe Gin
I mention sloe gin here because sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, a very Irish shrub. This is the most beautiful ruby color you ever saw, and makes a delicious after-dinner liqueur. However, if you want to have this for Yuletide, it will have to be Christmas 2004 and you'll need to start making it next June.

2 pounds of freshly picked sloes
1-3/4 cups lump sugar
1-quart gin

Prick the sloes with a fork. Crush about 12 of the sloes so that the kernels are broken. Put the sloes in bottles with the sugar and the gin. Cork very tightly. Shake once a week for 6 months. Strain and rebottle.
Note: If you can't get sloes, substitute damson plums.

Home-made Irish Cider

7 pounds apples
2 pounds brown sugar
1 large teaspoon of wine yeast (or baker's yeast will do)
One gallon water

Put the apples unpeeled into a wooden or earthenware crock, NOT metal. Crush the apples with a wooden pounder. Heat the water to about 75 degrees F and add to the apples. Dissolve the sugar in a little water over low heat. Dissolving it before adding to the apples makes sure it will not sink to the bottom. Add the yeast and stir the lot well with a wooden spoon. Cover the container and leave in a warm place to ferment. Every day, stir it a little to help the yeast do its work. It will bubble a lot; when all the bubbling has ceased, the cider is ready for bottling.

A cover will have formed on the top of the cider (scum and apple pulp). This will have to be squeezed to get all the apple juice from it. The easiest way to do this is to tie a square of strong muslin to the four legs of an upturned stool, dipping a little in the center. (Have ready a bowl or bucket under the muslin to catch the strained liquid). Strain the cider through the muslin. Rinse out the original container and return the cider to it; cover again and leave in a warm place for two days, allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom.

After 2 days pour the cider off very gently, not to disturb the sediment, which is thrown away.

Dissolve brown sugar in a little hot water; allow a half-teaspoon for each quart of cider. Allow to cool, and add to each quart.

Have ready some strong clean bottles with screw cap. Fill the bottles and keep them in a warm place for two weeks; remove to a cool, dark, dry place for 2 or 3 months before opening.
Then drink my health: Sláinte!

Ed. Note: In Ireland, it is customary to refer to an alcoholic potion as a "drink," Everything else, including tea, coffee, cocoa, and warm milk, is a beverage. Whatever you imbibe during the holidays, please do so responsibly - and do keep an eye on your guests. Friends don't let friends drink and drive. Sláinte!
Russ points out that the ‘drink and drive’ problem is more pronounced in the United States. He remembers that in his day in the UK they walked (horrors!).

Click here for more Holiday Drink Recipes

Image: From the book "A Toast to Ireland - A Celebration of Traditional Irish Drinks" by John Booth. It's out of print, but last time we looked, there were more than a dozen available on amazon starting as low as $1.50! If you're interested, please click Toast to Ireland.

Mulled Wine
Contributed by Anne Kennedy of Great Food. ie*
Christmas wouldn't be a celebration without mulled wine: aromatic, fragrant, spicy and warming, it makes the house smell wonderful!

2 large oranges
3 pints of water (48 fluid ounces)
8oz granulated sugar
2-3 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
2 bottles of good red wine
1 apple, sliced and cored
1 orange, deseeded and sliced
Brandy (optional)

1. Slice 2 oranges and place in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, 8oz granulated sugar, 2-3 cinnamon sticks and 10 cloves. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Strain the syrup. (The syrup can be prepared in advance and left to sit in the fridge for a day or two.) Return the syrup to the pan, bring to the boil, add 2 bottles of red wine, add a sliced, cored apple and a whole deseeded sliced orange into the mixture and serve.

Cook's note
You can add a few shots of brandy if you wish.

*ED. NOTE: Great is based in Dublin and if you want to find out all about Irish food, from ingredients to preparation, you’ll their web site very informative as well as entertaining. Currently, they are offering a great collection of popular recipes for Christmas, news of Irish food producers, cooking hints and tips, cookbook reviews, easy food to cook, world food news and celebrity interviews. To learn more or just explore, please click Great Food.

Any purchase made helps to support our site (and Bridget's fondness for tea towels). Thank you.


Thu, Jul 9, 2015

"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb

Celtic Folklore and Cooking
by Joanne Asala

Feast days, festivals, and informal gatherings all have something in common--food. But choosing the right food for the occasion can be difficult. Celtic Folklore Cooking takes the guesswork out of planning a feast, with plenty of sumptuous ideas for an entire meal, from soup to dessert and even drinks. Joanne Asala gathers generations-old recipes from Wales, Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, and England, associates them with appropriate festivals and times of the year, then sprinkles a dash of folklore between them. Perhaps you would like to learn the 400-year-old "Song of Harvest Home" while making Marigold Buns? Celtic Folklore Cooking is like having centuries of Celtic tradition in your kitchen, and it will help you find just the right flavor for your festivities. Review by Brian Patterson
Click here for Folklore & Cooking.

The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson’s love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.

With simple ingredients and easy to follow instructions, these recipes will help the home chef create a rich, plentiful feast! Among the 200 recipes are classics like Irish Stew, as well as Mince Pie, which Oliver Cromwell unsuccessfully attempted to ban because of its then-religious Irish shape. Each of the eleven chapters that puts the food into its context - whether its prepared for a celebration, to welcome guests - or even to seduce! Info' from back cover.
Click here for Feasting Galore.


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