August 2, 2021

The Bitter Irishman Cocktail: 1 Part Irish, 1 Part Italian, All Delicious

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20150308-BitterIrishman-bottles-Elana-LepkowskiBy Elana Lepkowski From Serious Eats


GET RECIPE: The Bitter Irishman
An Italian-Irish drink for your March celebrations. [Photographs: Elana Lepkowski]

I’m either one quarter or one eighth Irish, depending on which relative I consult. My family celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with cabbage and corned beef, and now that I’m an adult, the bottle of Irish whiskey comes down from my shelf and I make a point of having a shot or two to celebrate that part of my heritage. But St. Patrick’s isn’t the only saint’s day that March brings to my mind.

As a kid growing up in Rhode Island, I experienced another holiday when my Irish Catholic school burned down under suspicious circumstances (it wasn’t that great of a part of town) and I transferred to an Italian parochial school. The Italians celebrated St. Joseph’s Day, which is two days after St. Patrick’s. Everyone ate zeppole (which were so, so good) and wore red and white to the Knights of Columbus parade. There were flowers and candles, an explosion of color.

That part of my childhood left me with a lasting love of both saint’s day traditions (and a strange association between slow cooked, cured beef and fried pastries filled to the brim with sweetened cream). I had these two celebrations in mind when concocting this simple cocktail.


Everyone knows about Ireland’s long tradition of making whiskey, but most of us are just starting to dig deeper into Italy’s booze. Over the past few years I’ve fallen in love with the sweet and bitter amari that are wonderful after dinner and mixed into drinks. Often, they add just an accent of rich herbs and roots, but why stop at just an accent? To celebrate both cultures and holidays I’ve decided to make a cocktail that’s an even split of Irish whiskey and Italian amaro.


I chose Bushmills 10 for the Irish whiskey. It’s light in body and nothing like aggressive, making it a friendly whiskey for mixing, but it offers a lot of caramel and floral flavor that goes down smooth. I’ve paired it with Averna, a caramelly amaro that’s spicy and rich, with a bitter finish that won’t overwhelm newbies. The Averna anchors the Bushmills, giving the cocktail some bolder flavors while latching into the whiskey’s toasted-sugar side. (Can’t find Averna in your neighborhood? You can play around with other amari such as Cynar or Gran Classico Bitter; just be sure to give the mixture a taste, since it might need a little more sweetness to come into balance.) The drink highlights the contrast between the light and floral whiskey and the richer amaro, brightened by a punch of sour flavor from a little fresh lemon and sweetened with demerara sugar.

The whiskey’s bite and the Averna’s bitterness lingers wonderfully between sips. It’s a cocktail that may have you vowing to always skip the green beer.


This St. Patrick’s Day-appropriate cocktail is way better than green beer. The whiskey is light and almost floral, and the amaro is spicy and rich. Fresh lemon gives the drink a punch of refreshing sour flavor, and the drink finishes up with the whiskey’s bite and a little bitterness from the amaro. If you can find Luxardo cherries, they’re worth the expense, and delicious on all sorts of cocktails.

Note: To make demerara syrup, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup demerara sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

The Bitter Irishman

About This Recipe
1 cocktail
5 minutes
5 minutes
shaker, cocktail coupe
The Bitter Irishman Cocktail: 1 Part Irish, 1 Part Italian, All Delicious

1 ounce Irish whiskey, such as Bushmills 10
1 ounce Averna
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
1/4 ounce demerara syrup (see note)
Luxardo cherry, for garnish

Combine whiskey, Averna, lemon juice, and syrup together in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake until thoroughly chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and serve.

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