Have you ever had a sip of poitín? Don't worry - Anna Hart says you'll find this Irish spirit in a bar near you soon...
If you pride yourself on knowing your way around a cocktail menu, we have a new word for your vocab: poitín. Pronounced 'potcheen', and meaning 'little pot', this Irish moonshine is the latest drink to have a fashionable makeover. A handful of small-batch, craft distilleries such as Cooley, Knockeen Hills and San Francisco outfit 1512 are hoping to put this forgotten Irish spirit back on cocktail menus from Cork to California.
Dave Mulligan is co-owner of Shebeen, an Irish speakeasy in Kentish Town, who currently stock bottles by all eight of the world's (legal) poitín distillers, ranging from 40 alcohol by volume (abv). This month, he launches the first batch of Ban Poitin, which he describes as 'more soft and subtle than most, not far off vermouth in flavour, and with a bit of white wine on the nose.' It is, he says, 'a robust spirit, perfect in sours and old fashioneds, and mixes well with rum.'
For me, a Belfast girl, poitín is not a new word, but an old one. And not a particularly positive one. Growing up in Ireland, the word poitín was one that we whispered; someone's granddad made it in his garage from potato skins, someone else knew where you could buy it under the trestle table at a local Saturday market. We also heard tawdry tales of poitín gone wrong; people blinded by drinking the stuff, tractors crashed into donkeys, garages blown up by a single cigarette. After all, at 90, and then flavoured spirits like Cumara's Berry and Wild Orchard flavours at 40%,' says Dave. 'And it's all poitín.'
To us, this sounds like a bar shelf worth getting to know...
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