Add sugar to a heat-proof mug
Add hot tea, then whiskey and bitters
Featured Glassware: Urban Nature Basics Goblet by Villeroy & Boch
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I start my day with a fundamental question: coffee or tea? And, while it may seem like a simple problem, I often find myself weighing the qualities of each beverage – the thick, roasted satisfaction of my au lait versus the bracing astringency of Assam and a splash of milk. These days, tea wins out more often than not, and as tea is also a fundamental component of many a classic punch and cocktail, I’m always happy to find an excuse to feature a drink containing some measure of my morning pick-me-up. Should that drink also highlight Irish Whiskey, well, then we’ve got the makings for a great St. Patrick’s Day libation.
At this time last year, we turned our attention toward the heart of the Emerald Isle and a proper Irish Coffee made the way they do in Cashel. This year, we thought we’d celebrate the Irish emigrant – the one who by choice or as a guest of Her/His Majesty, found himself resettled on distant shores. It’s estimated that approximately 12% of Americans claim some level of Irish heritage, giving the United States nearly eight times as many “Irish” citizens as Ireland itself. I think that one of the key reasons I am so fond of the Irish is because they are so fond of and welcoming towards Americans – a quality not always easily found abroad.
I can’t speak to the provenance of the Colonial Boy outside of saying that I was first introduced to it about two years ago over at the Irish Whiskey Society forums. The drink appears here and there across the internet with the only variation being one site which forgot the bitters. That’s a shame because the bitters are really key here. To provide a proper baseline against our Irish Coffee of last year, we again reached for our bottle of Powers. While the whiskey blends nicely with the tea – in our case, Irish Breakfast, naturally – it’s really the bitters that pull the drink together. Angostura brings in wonderful allspice notes but feel free to experiment with whatever bitters strike your fancy. The sugar is also up to personal preference – add what tastes good or leave it out completely.
As I’m traveling this week, I’ll confess that my research surrounding the Colonial Boy wasn’t the deepest. Most interesting among the discoveries I did turn up was the traditional Irish ballad “Wild Colonial Boy,’ which tells the tale of ‘Bold Jack’ Donahue (also John Donohue), an Irish convict taken to Australia only to escape and become one of the country’s more celebrated bushrangers. Variations of Donahue’s exploits vary as much as the spelling of his name, but perhaps the most interesting version has Donahue as a member of the United Irishmen, a group dedicated to ousting the British from Irish shores.
As the story goes, Jack Donahue was arrested for his rebellious intent and deported to Australia in 1825 aboard the ship “Ann & Amelia”. Not long after reaching Oz, Jack escaped along with a couple of other inmates and “went bush”. Bushrangers were Australia’s equivalent of highwaymen – Ned Kelly being the most famous of them all – and Donahue earned himself something of a reputation as a Down Under Robin Hood. Some called him “The Stripper”, but it’s not known whether he made his victims strip or if he stripped them of their belongings. His brief run – which ended in 1830 with a bullet to the head (or heart) – captured the public’s imagination enough to have inspired the song “Bold Jack Donahue”. Australian authorities reportedly banned the song, only to have “Bold Jack Donahue” quickly replaced by the strikingly similar ballad “The Wild Colonial Boy” and its hero Jack Duggan. Ned Kelly himself was said to have been fond of the latter and sang it at Jones’ Inn in Glenrowan on the night before his capture.
If there’s anything better than a good drink, it’s a good drink with a song to go along with it. On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s only appropriate that that song be a drinking song. Unfortunately, despite our rich Irish heritage, we Americans are sorely lacking in the drinking song department. Here then, we give you “The Wild Colonial Boy” as performed by The Clancy Brothers – just the thing for a St. Patrick’s Day visit to the pub. And, be sure not to forget the Aran sweater.