Last July, M and I spent a cold, blustery day touring Dublin. The wind whipped through my thin raincoat and a cold, unrelenting drizzle soaked my clothing despite my umbrella. On such a chilly day, we only had one thing on our minds: booze. We had a reservation for an early morning tour at the Old Jameson Distillery, which happens to be right around the corner from the Guinness Brewery.
Our tour through the Old Jameson Distillery was unremarkable. Our guide took us through a tired, out-of-date display that escorted us through the stages of whiskey making—mashing, fermentation and distillation—complete with low-budget historical reenactments of the distillers of Jameson past. Yawn. There was a tacit, unspoken agreement between our group members to get through the tour as quickly as possible so we could move on to the good stuff—tasting some whiskey.
My ears perked up when our guide asked for volunteers for a “special tasting.” I’m not usually one to raise my hand in a crowd, but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. To my surprise, I was one of 10 people selected.
Our guide sat us around a oval table set with Glencairn whiskey tasting glasses and poured each of us three drams of whiskey. The samples she poured were of the world’s three best-selling whiskies: Jack Daniel’s, a Tennessee whiskey (technically a bourbon), Johnnie Walker Black, a peated Scotch blend, and, of course, Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Tasting the three side-by-side was eye-opening. The Jack Daniel’s was sweet on the palate, with a finish reminiscent of cotton candy. The Johnnie Walker was smooth and smoke laden. Finally, the Jameson was warm and nutty with a spicy nose and a robust sherry-soaked end.
The exceptionally smooth flavor of Irish whiskey is derived the combination of locally grown grain and pure water. One distinct difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch or American whiskies is that it’s distilled three times. In contrast, American bourbon and rye whiskies are usually filtered once, while Scotch is filtered twice. Jameson isn’t the best Irish whiskey, not by a long shot. But it’s a perfectly respectable spirit for simply sipping or using in your favorite cocktail.
I titled this post “Ode to Joy” after my dear friend Joy Castro, who introduced me to this cocktail, and the sheer joy it will bring you as you imbibe. The Jameson Ginger Smash is made with luxurious Domaine de Canton, a French cognac infused with Chinese ginger and vanilla. I swapped the bourbon in Joy’s recipe for Jameson and added a touch more lemon. The result is an incredibly spicy, refreshing gem that will be your go-to spring cocktail. Pair this drink with any of Joy’s crime novels or memoirs for the perfect spring evening.
- 1 ounce Irish whiskey (recommended: Jameson)
- 1 ounce Domaine de Canton
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake 10-20 seconds or until shaker is frosted over and ingredients are mixed.
- Serve up or over ice. Garnish with a wedge of lemon or lemon twist.