What is Poitín?
Poitín dates back to 1st century AD in Ireland, and is the precursor to whiskey in this region. Outlawed by English landowners in 1661 due to taxation on alcohol, it only became legal to produce again in 1997.
The word poitín means little pot, and derives from the technique used to distill the spirit using a pot still. The technical definition of poitín is an unaged spirit, from 40% ABV up to a mouthwatering 90% ABV. Its most commonly made from barley or potatoes, but can be made from just about anything, including milk or even tree bark.
Poitín today is brewed all over Ireland, some of the most notable brands being Bán, Micil, Killowen, Knockeen Hills and Mad March Hare.
There has been a steady increase in popularity of the spirit as a category along with its big brother Irish Whiskey.
How do you drink Poitín?
Poitín is an extremely versatile and interesting category. No two poitíns are the same, so there is always something new to discover. However, because of this it's important to understand what works where when starting your poitín journey.
This versatile spirit works especially well in cocktails. The unique sweet earthiness can provide an amazing profile to most styles of cocktails, but also works extremely well paired with a beer.
A simple favourite is fiery ginger beer, paired with a shot of poitín. The ginger really picks out the characteristics of the barley and potato used to make the poitín.
Poitín cocktail recipes
Try these inventive cocktail ideas at home and bring out the flavours of this interesting spirit.
This cocktail is based on a bartenders' favourite, the bee's knees cocktail. The natural honey and citrus works well to accentuate the barley flavours in poitín. Great as a palate cleanser. Simply swap the gin for poitín.
- 50ml poitín, (we used Bán Poitín)
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- 20ml honey water (*see method below)
Shake and double strain into a sours or cocktail glass.
*Mix 1 part water and 2 parts honey
Surprisingly, the poitín works particularly well with the spiciness of the American rye. This is also complemented by the herbal notes of the Chartreuse. A must have for a pre-dinner tipple.
- 20ml Micil Poitín
- 20ml Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey
- 10ml Yellow Chartreuse
- 15ml lime juice
- 5ml sugar syrup (*see method below)
- 1 egg white
Shake and double strain into a cocktail glass.
*Dissolve 300g caster sugar in 200ml water.
About the author:
Andy Kerr is the founder and Operations Director of The Umbrella Project, a London based hospitality collective. With bars Discount Suit Company, The Sun Tavern and brewery Umbrella London. The Umbrella Project also boasts an online shop which champions independent and small producer spirits, Irish whiskey as well as having the most concise selection of poitín available to buy anywhere in the world.
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