“There’s nothing to it, lad. Just write down some words till you’ve said it all. Easiest thing in the world” he said as he looked out into the coming storm. “I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. You know what happened, right?” I nodded in agreement. “Then just tell them the thing, like it happened, maybe add a bit here and there for the spice of it.” It sounded so simple. Of course, it did, things always sound easy, but the doing part was harder. He must’ve seen the doubt in my eyes. “Just start out at the beginning, anything to get them going. Look out that window”. “’Twas a dark and stormy night,” he bellowed ”that’s always a good one. Doesn’t matter if it was dark or stormy, you just need to set the tone. To let them know that a story has begun and it’s time to pay attention; and don’t let the truth of the thing get in the way of a good story. The telling, that’s what matters.” I sighed to myself, took my place behind the bar and in a voice as clear as a bell I called out. “Won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the classic Tipperary.”
They say it is along way to Tipperary, but that’s not true, depending on where you are starting from. I can tell you from experience that even the short trip can take awhile, because of the funeral procession and the lads on the pony-cart. One headed east in sorrow and the other running west in joy, both meaning well. If you’re coming from Cashel, as I was, it takes no time at all, even with the traffic, because you are already in Tipperary county, but the town is a bit further on. I didn’t know much, so when I asked the fella the way to Tipperary, I was confused when he said I was already there. No matter, though. The drink, it comes from a recipe that first appeared in Hugo Ensslin’s “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” in 1916. It has grown and changed through the years, like all of us, with a bit more of this or that depending on who is mixing, but this one remains true to its roots. Let’s mix it up and see what we think.
Grab your mixing pitcher and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of Irish Whiskey, I went with Jameson; 1/2 an ounce of Green Chartreuse and 1 ounce of sweet vermouth. Add some ice made from spring water and stir to the beat of “Will Ye Go, Lassie Go” by The Clancy Brothers. They are a good bunch of lads from Tipperary County who have traveled the world over sharing their music and wit. Their version of the song is a bit slower, so you are going to want to stir with reverence and sing along. Why wouldn’t you? It’s a fine song and you have a lovely voice, so open those pipes and put a bit of your heart into the drink. You may not think it will make a difference but you’d be wrong. Being thoughtful about the things you do always matters. Stir for a while to get a good dilution, when it feels right to you, strain into some chilled stemware and express an orange zest over the drink, before garnishing with a Luxardo cherry on a pick.
It’s booze forward, but lovely. There is truth in a simple drink like this. Three ingredients leave little space to hide a bad measure or stir. This one balances nicely, that herbal chartreuse crashing into the sweet side of the whiskey with the vermouth sort of smoothing over the rough spots. It’s a good drink and a fine way to end a night, whether it be dark and stormy or not.
That song always sets me to thinking. Walking through the country side, actually picking wild mountain thyme among all that glorious blooming heather. That’s a line that always reminds me of one Heather who blooms no more and I miss her so. There always a bit of melancholy, in the good days and a bit of the joy in the sad days. That’s life, it all balances, if your watching close enough. On that day it was the buebells blooming among the bull thistles as the sheep watch from a distance. Drinking from the spring just below the crest of the hill, leaning back looking out across the valley, my new bride in the crook of my arm, thinking it doesn’t get much better than this. It does get better, though…and worse. A young man can’t appreciate how things will change. How life and love will become sweeter with time. How your life ages, good times and bad carrying us along, changing us subtly. Just like that whiskey being pushed in and out of the wooden barrel, each cycle making its irreversible mark, another step toward perfection, or something close to it.
A rich life is filled with joys and sorrows. Those experiences who make us who we are. Many have lost a great deal this year, not just the obvious things either. As much as we miss those who have moved on to the next stage, we have also lost so much time with friends and family who are still here. We trade that loss for their safety and this is a right thing to do, but there is a sorrow in it. I’d remind you that during this time when we should do our best to not share the same air, we can still pick up the phone and share a call, send a card, have drinks over zoom. Whatever it takes, get creative, but keep those connections, there is precious little else in life that matters. When it is all said and done, what is a life except the stories we collect along the way? Our stories and the part we play in others. Make them good, make them count and stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.