While the Scots seem to get all of the love from the whiskey world, the word whiskey itself comes from the Gaelic phrase Uisce Beatha [pronounced: ISH-ka BUH-ha], which means “water of life.”
And it was the Irish themselves who first introduced western Europe to the many wonders of distilled grains.
In the 12th century Christian monks in Ireland had learned how to distill perfumes, and it is said that one of the monks got drunk on his creation, which lead to the discovery of distilling various mashes to make alcohol. The monks relied on the land for ingredients, and that land was full of barley.
Malted barley became the mash of choice and Irish whiskey was born.
Beginning in 1536 King Henry VIII disbanded all monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland. This lead the monks to look for new work, with many of them deciding to distill whiskey and sell it to the public.
Fast forward nearly 70 years and the latest king of England and Ireland was James I.
He saw the amount of whiskey being sold and decided he wanted a cut of the profits, so he made distillation without a license illegal so he could tax the distilleries. While many distillers continued to make illegal alcohol, some applied for licenses, the first of which was given to Sir Thomas Phillips of the town of Bushmills in 1608.
In this episode of Cooking With Fire we learn more about Irish whiskey and make a smokey and sweet cocktail that is perfect for summer.
- 2 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
- 2 oz fruit syrup (recipe below)
- 1 tbsp honey
- splash of soda water
For the fruit syrup:
- 4 oz blackberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- To make the fruit syrup, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce until the berries are broken down and the liquid is thickened to a syrupy consistency. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard the solids. Reserve the syrup.
- Place a cedar plank on a heat safe surface. Using a torch, char the center of the board. Immediately turn a high ball glass upside down and place over the char, to trap the smoke under the glass.
- Combine the honey and soda water in a small glass. Stir to dissolve the honey.
- Remove the rocks glass from the cedar plank and fill with ice. Add the whiskey, fruit syrup and honey/soda water. Top off with more soda water, as needed. Stir before serving.