"I have never seen a West Cork farmer with an umbrella, except at a funeral. His father or grandfather, who went to the creamery with an ass and cart, insulated himself against the vagaries of the heavens with a thick woollen overcoat and slightly greasy flat cap. Little rain permeated the oxter or the headgear. Beneath the outer layer, which could weigh a hundredweight when well soaked, the man remained dry and warm." -Damien Enright
The public narrative on Irish spirits needs rewriting. I, like most people outside Ireland, think of whisky or uisce beath (prounounced ish-ka bah-ha), the Irish Gaelic word for whiskey as the spirit of Ireland. Poitín (pronounced pu-tcheen) pre-dates Irish whiskey production by almost 1100 years. Irish monks began production as early as the 6th century AD. The British banned the production of poitín in 1661 and drove production of this original Irish spirit underground until the legalization of production began in 1997.
Mad March Hare Poitín is one of the finest examples of this liquor. The spirit takes its name from Mooney an early purveyor of poitín who secretly distributed this necessity of Irish culture under the guise of a vegetable and fruit vendor. Mooney was a character and described by many as “mad as a march hare.” While this spirit has a long illicit history that forced production on a small scale, do not write this off as just Irish moonshine. This barley based spirit’s history and complex flavor profile deserves more!
The aroma of Mad March Hare drew me in right away. I detected hints of fresh grass, orange, and the sweet must of an early morning. The flavor profile covers quite a range. Notes of vanilla and clove drift through. This is balanced with hints of dried fruit and pepper. A slight sweetness is present as well which mellows the alcohol without becoming cloying.
Mad March Hare invites you to experiment extensively. Your initial thought may be to substitute it for whiskeys, and I think this complex spirit could pull this off in many cocktails. However, do not limit yourself. Use this spirit in place of rhum agricole for some unique cocktail vairations. In addition, I think you could substitute it for shochu in cocktails as barley is a key component in the mash bill. This mad spirit should not be limited.
THIRST AND HUNGER
Twist on a Classic: Ti Punch
I wanted to use the poitín in a diverse way. Thus, I thought it could make an interesting substitute for a classic recipe with rhum agricole. I loved featuring Mad March Hare with just a hint of lime and rich simple syrup.
For the drink:
-2 oz Mad March Hare Poitín
-1/2 oz rich simple syrup (3:2- 3 parts demarara or turbinado sugar and 2 parts
-1 whole lime
Add poitín and lime sliced into four pieces to your glass. Muddle the lime. Add the rich simple syrup and ice. Stir for 15 seconds to chill. Garnish.
Something Original: Dancing Hares
Mad March Hare's ability to serve as the foundation to a range of cocktails made me want to explore. The poitín allowed me to try and balance a cocktail with a range of sour, bitter, sweet, and spicy flavors.
For the drink:
-2 oz Mad March Hare Poitín
-1/2 oz ancho chile liqueur (Ancho Reyes)
-1/2 oz dry curaçao (Pierre Ferrand)
-1/2 oz vino verde reduction
-1 oz fresh lemon juice
-2 dashes angostura bitters
-1 Egg white
Angostura bitters mist
Cut out the Mad March Hare logo with an X-acto knife on a piece of clear firm plastic. The lid of to-go food containers work well.
Place your glass in the freezer. Combine the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice and shake for 30 seconds. Add ice and shake for 15 seconds. Pour into a glass through a Hawthorne strainer and fine mesh strainer. Allow to settle for one and a half minutes. Add Angostura bitters to a mister and spray the mold on top of the egg white layer.
Eat Your Spirit: Free Form Poitín Fruit Tart
The fresh earthy nature of Mad March Hare led me to consider many options for the food item. With summer in full swing and fresh fruit in abundance I paired it with a blueberries, raspberries, and peaches to accentuate the spirits qualities.
For the dough:
-3/4 cup flour (gluten free flour makes a shorter crust)
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-6 tablespoons butter
-2 tablespoons water
-1/4 cup Mad March Hare Poitín
-1/4 cup raspberries or black berries
-1/4 cup blueberries
-1 and 1/2 fresh peaches
-2 tablespoons demarara or turbinado sugar
-Add the berries and poitín to a bowl. Toss and refrigerate.
-In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt to combine.
-Slice the butter into small pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until small pea sized consistency.
-Add the water and pulse until a coarse consistency.
-Flour a surface and dump the dough mixture out. Work together with your hands. Divide in two and roll into 4 inch discs. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
-Remove from the fridge and let sit for 10 minutes.
-Tear of four sheets of parchment paper. Dust two with flour and add the dough discs. Dust the discs with flour and place a piece of parchment paper on top.
-Turn the oven on to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Roll into 7 inch discs. Transfer to the fridge for 15 minutes.
-Once you place the discs in the fridge, slice the peaches and add to the poitín. Toss with the sugar.
-Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to rest for ten minutes. Divide the fruit place it in the middle of the two discs. Ensure it's an inch from the edges all the way around.
-Fold the dough on itself all the way around.
- Brush the dough with water and place in the oven.
-Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating every 10 to 15 minutes.
-The dough will be golden brown.
This post, like others about regions I have not been to, means this section of the post is a little different. I have only been to Dublin, so this represents my ideal trip to Cork.
-Castles, castles, castles! Desmond Castle actually served as a prison for Americans during the Revolutionary War.
-Inchydoney is one of the most picturesque beaches in Ireland.
-Garnish Island offers unique gardens near Glengarriff.
-The Ballycotton cliff walk isn't for the faint of heart.
-As ridiculous as it may seem, since Ireland is known for its butter and Cork in particlar, The Butter Museum interests me.
-See a range of classical and contemporary Irish art at The Crawford Art Gallery.
-The English used the Cork City Goal as a prison during the Irish war of independence.
Food and Drink:
-I never grow tired of markets and with a history dating back to 1610 The English Market seems like a must visit.
-A Michelin star restaurant awaits in Baltimore: Dede at The Custom House.
-Michelin also featured Goldie for a Bib Gourmand.
-I love chips aka french fries, and Jackie Lennox's reigns supreme as the best chips in Cork.
-A local brewery known for re-imagining Irish classics: Franciscan Well.
-The small plates and craft cocktails at Cask seem like a must try.
Where to Stay:
Visit Cork and in the mean time drink the spirit of the region, Mad March Hare Poitín.