The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade was held not in Ireland, but in New York City in1792. Since then, parades for this holiday have been held the world-over—from South Korea to Brazil.
In Chicago, the holiday is celebrated by famously dying the Chicago River green. How did that start?
Well, in 1961 pollution controls were a relatively new thing. Stephen Bailey, the manager for Chicago’s Journeymen Plumbers Local Union (the union sponsored the St. Patrick’s Day parade) ran into one of his plumbers in overalls which looked like they were stained “Irish green.” When asked what the heck had dyed his overalls such a color the plumber explained that it was from a new chemical that was being used to track waste leakage from factories in the river. While most of us would have stopped listening at the words “waste leakage,” Stephen Bailey was having a “eureka” moment. That year a tradition was born that continues to this day—the dying of the Chicago River green with a chemical that remains a trade secret to this day.
Other cities have their “thing” as well. In New York City they light up the Empire State Building green. In Buenos Aires, ex-pats gather at the Irish Pubs in the Retiro district and wreak havoc until the early dawn. In Ireland there are festivals and reenactments of the legends of St. Patrick’s and a deep distain for Americans dying their specially-crafted beer. While some would-be traditions failed (Dog Fish Brewery created Verdi Verdi Good beer in 2005, a naturally green beer available only in draught form that never caught on) others have thrived. Locally, it’s a poorly kept secret that on St. Patrick’s Eve the Elbow Room’s luminescent red interior is transformed into the color of Ireland and nationally its well-known that the 5k at McGuire’s is the nation’s largest prediction run with over 5,000 (awkwardly dressed) participants.
So this year, whether you’re going out or staying in, make sure to start one of your own traditions. Here are some ideas to get you inspired:
Fun fact: The color originally associated with St. Patrick was blue!
If you aren’t really feeling like braving the green masses this St. Patrick’s Day, then turn your home into an Irish haven by cooking up your own Irish feast while jamming to Flogging Molly.
Irish Dinner Recipe Guide
Homemade Corned Beef
Corned beef piled high atop rye bread can make even the most jaded of men shed a tear of delight. After all, deep down inside of us all there’s an Irish lad who longs for his mother’s home cooking—or so the world would have us believe on St. Patrick’s. If you want to try your hand at Ireland’s most famed dish, by all means do it, as it’s easy as can be—although it takes much planning ahead! If you wait until St. Pat’s Day to start making it, take comfort in knowing you can enjoy a Guinness or 10 while you wait for the fortnight it takes for this thing to brine…
2 quarts water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons saltpeter
1 cinnamon stick, broken up
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
12 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds ice
1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed
1 small onion, quartered
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
Pour water in a large stockpot along with all the brining spices. Cook on high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat and add the two pounds of ice. Stir until ice has melted. Place brisket in a large, 2 gallon zip-top plastic bag. Once the brine has cooled, pour on top of brisket. Close and place in casserole dish (in case it leaks). Cover and refrigerate for 10 days. Check occasionally to make sure meat is still submerged in brine.
On the tenth day (hallelujah!) remove the brisket from brine and rinse well with cool water. Place in a pot just big enough to hold meat, onion, carrot and celery. Cover with 1-inch of water. Over high heat bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 hours. Remove from pot and cut across the grain to serve. Serves 6-8 people.
Irish Soda Bread
Half scone, half muffin, full-on tasty. These soda bread rolls are a source of national pride.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet you want them)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons caraway seeds*
1/2 to 1 cup of raisins*
1 1/4 cups buttermilk**
You can omit these two and just make plain biscuits, or you could play around with it and add fresh rosemary, candied ginger, cranberries, or whatever herbs and dried fruit combinations you wish.
** If you don’t have buttermilk on hand (did I just hear the collective gasp of southern bakers everywhere?) you can “make” your own by adding one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to one cup and three tablespoons of milk—stir until the milk curdles a little.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare standard muffin tin. Mix flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in bowl. When combined, work in cold butter by hand until it resembles a course meal. Add raisins and caraway seeds (or any other add-ins). Form a well into the center of the dough and pour in buttermilk. With a wooden spoon, mix until flour is wet and sticky dough has formed. If too dry, add a little more buttermilk. Too wet, a bit more flour. The dough should be sticky, but workable. Work quickly as the buttermilk acid will already be interacting with the soda and leavening will start happening (the magic of science).
Break off 12 pieces of the dough and put in muffin tin compartments. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or until tops are brown. Serve with butter and jam, or anything else you’d like.
Guinness Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Icing
If you overestimated and find your fridge has a seemingly never ending supply of Guinness, fear not! There are whole websites dedicated to baking with it. However, this heavenly chocolate cake is one of the best recipes among them.
1 cup Guinness
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup sour cream
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
Cream Cheese Icing
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one nine-inch spingform pan and line bottom with parchment. In a small saucepan, lightly heat butter and beer until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and mix in the sugar until dissolved. Mix in the cocoa. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Mix into beer mixture. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking soda until combined, then blend into beer mixture until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.
To make icing, beat cream cheese with electric blender until soft and fluffy. Add confectioners’ sugar and cream and beat until smooth. Ice top of cooled cake. Serves 12.
If you’re the kind who actually has a St Patrick’s Day “costume,” then the list below is just a mere jumping off point.
Seville: Pensacola’s Oldest Irish Bar, Rosie O’ Grady’s starts the day off with a lunch special of corned beef with cabbage and Irish stew. Throughout the day there will be specials on Jameson, Guinness, Bushmills and Green Beer. Live Irish music “with a twist” on tradition will be playing all day long with Michael “O’” Quinn (at least he is for one day) on guitar at End O’ The Alley. At the Dueling Piano Show, awards will be doled out for the hottest red head during their “sexy leprechaun” contest.
130 E. Government St.
5 ½: Known for their creative and throwback cocktail lists, Patrick Bolster of 5 1/2 has crafted another specialty drink for St. Patrick’s Day. Made with Irish whiskey (Feckin’ specifically) the following drink has been coined “The Irish Kiss,” although I still stand by recommendation that it be called “A Feckin’ Kiss”.
To make your own, combine 2 part Feckin’, 1/2 part Canton Ginger liqueur, 1/2 part St. Germain elderflower liqueur and 1/2 part fresh lemon juice. Garnish with candied ginger.
5 E. Garden St.
Go Irish on the Island: Pensacola Beach is throwing down a week-long celebration of St. Patrick’s from March 12 to 17. Start the big day by repenting at 9 a.m. Catholic Mass at Paddy O’Leary’s before starting the 10 a.m. St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl which starts at Sidelines and then slowly meanders into madness over the course of 16 other bars and restaurants. The crawl ends at 7 p.m.
O’Riley’s Irish Pub: This year boasts live entertainment, drink specials, Jell-O wrestling and plenty of green beer. Get there when they open at 11 a.m. for a seat and fill up on some fish and chips before the party really begins.
3728 Creighton Rd.
The Magnolia: Stop in this neighborhood bar to fill up on house made special Irish favorites like corned beef and cabbage and an homage to potato appetizers. If you’re in need of a sweet fix, than stay true to the spirit of the holiday by indulging on one of their Guinness chocolate cakes or Guinness floats. Other drink specials will flow throughout the night as well.
2907 E. Cervantes St.
Jackson’s: Who says Irish food can’t be something worthy of a white tablecloth? Once a year, Jackson’s presents a special St. Patrick’s Day menu. On March 17 at 5:30 p.m. chef Irv Miller will feature his Irish-inspired menu, featuring potato soup with smoky cheddar and Guinness beer as well as a grass-fed spring lamb with fresh mint marmalade, parsley, new potatoes, grilled asparagus and traditional Irish soda bread. Full dinner menu also available.
400 S. Palafox
Fish House & Atlas: At 5 p.m. chef Jim Shirley will feature, a Gaelic inspired surf and turf, blending local seafood with some of the classic Irish touches at The Fish House. The colcannon grouper features grilled grouper with creamed curly kale and house-made bacon and potato sauce, capped with Gulf shrimp in a stout-dosed black pepper Worcestershire BBQ accompanied by potato and cabbage gratin. Throughout the complex, available at all locations, they will be serving up Irish punch, in a commemorative Fish House glass, for $5.
600 S. Barracks St.
The Angus: Chef George Makris of The Angus will be featuring a special dish during the week of St. Patrick’s Day: broiled flounder, stuffed with a pesto crab cake served on a bed of fried pasta, with grilled asparagus and a white wine reduction glaze. If that doesn’t make you want to run over there, their newly crafted martini’s will—they even have a special one for St. Patrick’s Day.
1101 Scenic Hwy.
Elbow Room: It’s going to be green inside. Need I say more?
2213 W. Cervantes St.