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Issue 15 - Ireland's theory of evolution

Whisky Magazine Issue 15
April 2001


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Ireland's theory of evolution

Susy Atkins examines Irish drinking culture and discovers that drinkers tastes have gradually changed and moved beyond Guinness, whiskey and liqueurs.

The Irish appetite for spirits is down to the marshy and watery terrain of the country, which causes them to fall ill from colds and flu. Well, that's what Edmund Campion put it down to in his book, History of Ireland, written in 1569. “For remedy thereof, they use an ordinary drink of aqua vitae, so qualified in the making that it drieth more and inflameth less than other hot confections,” he wrote. He was, of course, referring to whiskey.

Fast forward nearly 500 years and hot Irish whiskey is as effective in fighting the accursed common cold as it ever was in Campion's day – Irish publicans must make millions of hot whiskeys every winter. A shot of Irish whiskey (usually Power's), brown sugar, cloves and perhaps a slice of lemon, topped up with freshly boiled water (or variations on that recipe
depending on exactly where you pitch up) is all it takes to rid yourself of the sniffles. It's something that the ghastliest Irish theme pub would do well to attempt – maybe there's even a marketing opportunity here. Anyone for a bottle of premixed Old Mother Reilly's Cold Cure &
Stiffener? Maybe not.

Irish theme pubs will try to sell you anything. From Prague to Penang and even in Peterborough, they peddle the dream that whiskey, Guinness and gloopy cream liqueurs are the only drinks consumed in Ireland. In reality, Irish and Irish-born drinkers are not so narrow minded and easily pigeon-holed – to expel one myth, Guinness doesn't accompany every meal nor do Irish ...

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