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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3 Responses to WWPD: What Would (Saint) Patrick Drink?

  1. James PATRICK Conway says:

    For those in the Chicago area be sure to check out the Wild Blossoms Meadery & Winery in the (heavily Irish) Beverly neighborhood. For Hyde Parkers the ever popular and bountiful ye olde Kimbark Liquor Shoppe also sells mead though of the Scandanavian instead of the Hibernian variety. To celebrate the whole history of Ireland one should also look to it’s Viking origins, which according to DNA makes up the bulk of Irish ancestry (note that not all of these lineages have consensual origins) there is also the drink of Glugg a spirit made up largely of boiling port wine and mixing it with various native herbs and liquids to taste. I personally recommend purchasing this where possible since the kind made in nerdy college dormrooms is neither palatable nor likely safe to drink. And the best hangover cure is an Irish coffee (two parts Baileys one part Jamesons) and a hearty breakfast of bangers n’mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).

  2. James Conway says:

    Never forget this Irish toast either

    “May your glass be ever full. May the roof over your head be always strong. And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

  3. Robert NOW in Peru says:

    Nice picture, but did they put green food coloring into the Chicago River too, Ellie?

    Last night was BEER here in Lima, no one knows anything about the Irish here…

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