Come March 17 we're all a little Irish, either by descent or desire, so there's no disputing what to drink: whiskey. Like a lilting brogue, a good whiskey begins smooth and finishes with a bite.
The word in Gaelic means "water of life," but it is known as "the brown" in its homeland. And in the Twin Cities, it flows like the muddy Mississippi, thanks to the Emerald Isle's native son, Kieran Folliard, founder of Kieran's, the Liffey and the Local, which collectively have sold more Jameson Irish Whiskey than any place in the world, including Ireland.
You could say Folliard got his start in the liquor business at age 15 as a bartender in a tiny 15-stool "local" in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland, where "all the drinks had two ingredients -- the first one was a glass," he said in an interview.
When Folliard decided to create his own Irish whiskey, 2 Gingers, tailored to his adopted home, he went with Cooley's European Spirits as the distillery; it's one of the last remaining independent Irish whiskey distilleries. While most Irish whiskeys are distilled three times before being aged for three, Folliard's 2 Gingers is distilled twice (just as Scotch is), then aged for four years. The aging begins in bourbon barrels before the whiskey is finished in sherry casks.
"2 Gingers is a smoother, slightly sweeter whiskey with overtones of vanilla, from the bourbon, and hints of citrus, from the sherry," notes Folliard. Not as rough as Canadian whiskey or as smoky tasting as good Scotch, it's a blended grain-based spirit that's close to, but not the same as, its Irish whiskey family.
Working off his collective memory and observation of American preferences, Folliard tailored this spirit for the best-selling signature cocktail in the pubs he recently left to pursue his new venture. His signature drink, "Big Ginger," is a blend of ginger ale, whiskey, lemon and lime, and there's a lower-calorie version, the "Skinny Ginger."
As founder of Minnesota's first Irish whiskey company, Folliard will be grand marshal of both Minneapolis' and St. Paul's St. Patrick's Day parades. To meet him in person and taste this new/old "brown," find his store appearance schedule on the 2 Ginger's website, www.2gingerswhiskey.com. He'll be signing bottles and telling tales. Beth Dooley is author of "The Northern Heartland Kitchen."