Food & Drink

The Unspoken Rules of Drinking on St. Patrick's Day, According to Real Irish Bartenders

Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon / Courtesy of Bushmills Irish Whiskey

St. Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with drunken debauchery, green everything and faux red beards. To help correct America's behavior on March 17, famed Irish barmen Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon of The Dead Rabbit are hosting parties at Pippin's Tavern in Chicago, LIR Pub in Boston and at their own bar in New York to help educate people how to best celebrate St. Patrick’s Day the real, Irish way. You won’t find green beer or any shots with “bomb” in the name at these parties. Instead, the drinks on offer will include civilized cocktails made with Bushmills Irish whiskey such as their take on an Irish Coffee, the Street Fighter (Bushmills and Calvados), and the Shot and a Half (a half pint of Guinness with a shot of Bushmills). “When we first came to New York—before we opened Dead Rabbit—we were up in Midtown walking through the streets, and there were these younger people lying on the street outside a pub just puking all around themselves,” says Muldoon. “That’s not how we want St. Patrick’s Day portrayed.” Here, McGarry and Muldoon reveal the unspoken rules of drinking on St. Patrick’s Day.

Never Call It St. Patty’s

If you really want to annoy an Irishman (or woman) call St. Patrick’s Day St. Patty’s Day. “I’ve never heard of anybody in Ireland named Patrick referred to as ‘Patty,’” says Muldoon. “The only person I’ve ever known in Ireland called ‘Patty’ had Patterson as his surname. It’s either St. Paddy’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day.” McGarry couldn’t agree more: “A ‘patty’ is a burger for us,” he says.

Always Start the Holiday with an Irish Coffee

The best time to indulge in an Irish Coffee on St. Patrick’s Day isn’t midday or in the evening, but with breakfast. “Instead of having regular coffee, start with an Irish Coffee,” says Muldoon. “Then you can gradually move onto drinking pints of Guinness in the afternoon, and finish off the night with a few whiskeys.” Just make sure that you make a proper Irish Coffee with Irish whiskey (McGarry and Muldoon use Bushmills Original in their take on the classic), hot coffee and homemade whipped cream. Baileys in coffee isn’t an Irish Coffee.

Eat Plenty of (Irish) Food

Both bartenders feel that eating should be an important part of St. Patrick’s Day. It is not only crucial to surviving drinking from morning to night, but is also an integral part of the celebration. Muldoon and McGarry recommend starting with a proper Irish breakfast (Muldoon suggests a full fry-up) followed by traditional Irish foods throughout the day, like steak and Guinness pie.

Drink Highballs, Not Shots

Despite what many Americans think, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t about getting wasted. “St. Patrick’s Day is not a green card for getting pissed and going completely crazy,” says McGarry. “It’s about enjoying the company of people, enjoying the drinks and enjoying the evening.”

Instead of ordering a flurry of shots or pint after pint of green beer, try something a little more hydrating. “A nice Irish Whiskey Highball is light, refreshing and easy to drink,” says McGarry. “I’d definitely suggest that over taking a ton of shots and getting drunk very quickly.”

Muldoon agrees. “It’s a long day and it should be a long, slow march of drinking—not a sprint,” he says. “Make it less of a Halloween party and more of a Thanksgiving party.”

Never Order an Irish Car Bomb

It is insensitive and completely dated to order the Baileys-and-whiskey-based Depth Charge—especially on St. Patrick’s Day. “If you were to go to an Irish pub in Ireland and ask for an Irish Car Bomb they wouldn’t know what you were talking about,” Muldoon says. “When I was first asked for one here in the States, I thought the customer was being offensive.” You don’t need to be an expert in Irish history to understand why ordering the drink would be seen as offensive to a bartender (especially if he or she happened to be from Northern Ireland like Muldoon and McGarry). “It’s just not a drink that should be ordered,” says McGarry. “Period.”