WWPD: What Would (Saint) Patrick Drink?

On March 17th, the Irish world will honor the life and divine influence of Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick, with 13 million pints of Guinness, leprechaun stories, and green…lots and lots of green.  After doing a bit of research on the history of Saint Patrick’s Day, I’m sorry to say to all of you pot-o’-gold hunters that a lot of those traditions are, well, blarney. For one, green was a sign of bad luck in the Emerald Isle (which is ironic, because with all the green beer going around, that could mean some pretty bad luck the next morning). And, I know I stand to get some angry pinches by saying this, but isn’t beer-swigging into oblivion kind of undermining Saint Patrick’s virtuous accomplishments? Now, I’m certainly not saying that Saint Patty’s Day should be a dry day by any means, but I can present you with some convincing reasons why, if Saint Patrick were among us, he’d choose wine.

Saint Patrick, glorified with a clover and of course, green

Before the name Saint Patrick became synonymous with clovers, beer, and the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, he was a Romano-Briton Catholic missionary who devoted his life to converting most of pagan Ireland into a Catholic republic. And, since a great deal of Catholicism deals with the sacrament of Holy Communion, wine must have been part of his daily conversion ritual. If given the choice, I’m willing to bet that Saint Patrick would choose a decent red wine, symbolizing the blood of Christ, over green beer. The Irish didn’t even brew beer, they brewed very bitter ale without hops since it was not native to the island. There’s little documentation of either wine or beer in Ireland during Saint Patrick’s time (around the fifth century, A.D.), but it’s well known that wine was an important staple of a sailor’s diet; and when you’re on an island, that means you’re wine-ing a-plenty. As it just so happens, dear old Patrick was also a sailor before his missionary years, so he would have relied on wine not only for spiritual but nutritional salvation as well.

Green wine is simply white wine with green food coloring

So, now that we know that Saint Patrick would have rocked the wine bar, let me share some Irish-inspired wine drinks you can enjoy next Thursday. If you really want to pour into some Irish tradition, open your mind (and palate) to mead, which is a native Irish “honey wine” made by fermenting honey and water. While it’s not biologically wine (as it contains no fruit juice), it can be enjoyed similarly with its dry, semi-sweet, and sweet flavors (reminiscent of Rieslings), and either still, sparkling, or carbonated. It goes great with a hearty Irish stew or corned beef and cabbage. But, finding mead in the U.S. is just about as hard to find as a four-leaf clover. Search your local Irish imports store, and if all else fails, you can make your own in about six weeks. For those of you with just enough Irish spirit to last you the night, you can always resort to the white wine and food coloring trick that’ll be a creative alternative to the day’s “obligatory green beer” selection. Just take a glass of your favorite white wine, add 2-3 drops of green food coloring, and, voila! Green wine.

Chicago's green river on Saint Patrick's Day

Ellie showing her Irish (for the day) pride on Saint Patrick's Day 2010 on the Chicago River

There is a reason why the Irish world celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day right in the middle of Lent, and it’s totally beside the point that his death fell on March 17, 460 A.D. It’s because we all need a break from our boring, sober routines, and deserve a colorful night of dancing and splurging since we couldn’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Conclusion: Indulge. It’s what Saint Patrick would have wanted.

Sláinte, agus Beannachtai na Feile Padraig!

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