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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Coffee and Irish Memories

In truth, I always thought that the first place my international travels would take me would be Italy.  Most likely, Tuscany.  It's just a dream I've had for as long as I can remember to see rows of grapevines stretching over waving hills as far as the eye can see.  I imagined fat lemons and olive groves and "creepy Italian trees".  In the land of make-believe, I even envisioned finding my very own Bramasole.

Then again, maybe Mexico would be my first destination.  Sure, I've been there... when I was approximately too young to remember.  Being born a southern California girl in the mid-seventies, strolling leisurely across to border for a plate of good food and continued expanses of sandy beaches was just what you did.  Or so I hear.  Plus, I married myself a Mexican.  Surely we would one day have our own colorful hacienda, complete with a hand-crafted iron entryway and an open courtyard in the middle where we would sit with our cafecitos under the gentle morning sun.

Italy and Mexico were definitely the top two destinations on my itinerary.  But the rest of the world had its spot on my list of "one day".  Never did I imagine that instead, my first airplane ride would bring visions of lush land in every shade of green imaginable, parceled off with vegetation and stones and trees.  From my window seat high above I would be stunned into watery-eyed silence by the sight of row houses and farmland and quiet, winding roads.  The sparks of dormant Irish locked up in my DNA began to awaken.
My time in Ireland was a whirlwind of buses and whiskey distilleries, mash pots and drams, magpies and beautiful scenery passing by at a clip.  I longed to scream STOP THE BUS!  How badly I wanted to spread out a blanket and breathe in the bustle of Monday morning in Dublin or the enveloping hush of the late Monday afternoon in County Cork.  I found it utterly dizzying how the soil under my feet (and all over my shoes) felt so comfortable.

That whirlwind left me longing for more.  I met fabulous people.  I tasted amazing food.  I learned a whole awful lot about the process of making whiskey.  And then I jetted off to Scotland (love story part two).

And now, just remembering, I feel the a tug at my heart that threatens to pull it straight from my chest.  One day I will return to Ireland, and I will take it slow.  I'll drink leisurely in the pubs.  I'll take photos of the streets and the countrysides.  I'll chase off the evening chill with an Irish Coffee.  And I'll wave at the buses going by from my blanket in the park.
My favorite Irish Whiskey seems to be the one I'm drinking at any given moment.  I love the small nuances each distiller adds to their amber liquid.  While in Ireland, I visited several distilleries and sampled several more types of whiskey.  Concannon was not one that I tried until back home in the states, though.  But as fate would have it, this Concannon Whiskey is distilled in collaboration with Cooley distillery, which is located in County Louth at the foothills of the Cooley Mountains.  Cooley I was familiar with!  Concannon combines both malt whiskey and grain whiskey, blended by Master Distiller Noel Sweeney, whom I met and had a whiskey tasting with while at Kilbeggan distillery.  (You can catch a glimpse of him in this post.)

Concannon is aged in bourbon casks for a minimum of four years (Irish whiskey must be aged for at least three years to be authentic Irish whiskey) before being transferred to barrels that previously held Concannon wine to allow for mellowing and maturing of the whiskey, which results in some sweet, fruity notes in the finished product.  To me, Concannon's nose is fruity with hints of light caramel and vanilla.  When tasted, I pick up those same notes, but it also blooms on the tongue sort of soft and floral-like.  It's mellow and smooth enough that you can kick back and enjoy a dram, but I can see some tasty cocktails coming out of it in the future, as well.

In honor of St. Paddy's Day, I went traditional.  It's soft sweetness made it a welcome flavor in my Irish Coffee.  Have you tried Concannon Irish Whiskey?  What would you use in your Irish Coffee (or what is your favorite type of Irish Whiskey)?

Erin go will forever have a piece of my heart, Ireland.

Irish Coffee

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: n/a
Keywords: beverage alcohol coffee whisk(e)y St Patricks Day tailgating Irish

Ingredients (2 coffees)
  • 4 tsp. brown sugar
  • ¼ c. Irish Whiskey
  • 1 c. freshly brewed, strong, hot coffee
  • heavy cream
If you can, warm two clear mugs in a very low oven for a few moments before making and serving this coffee.

Carefully set the two warm mugs down and add 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar to each. Add 2 tablespoons of the whiskey to each mug. Next, add ½ cup coffee to each.

Adding the cream is the last step. In order to achieve that layer floating on top of the coffee, turn a spoon upside down and but it up to the inside of the mug, just slightly above coffee-level. Slowly pour the cream over the back of the spoon, letting it run down and hit the side of the mug and gently drizzle into the coffee until you have a good layer of the cream.

Serve immediately!
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I received a free bottle of Concannon Irish Whiskey for the purpose of tasting.  All opinions stated in this post are my own.