Bloomberg News

Irish Whiskey Saves Me From Irish Pubs on St. Patrick’s

March 15, 2012

The Ward III cocktail ``Hell Bent For Leather'' was created by Michael Neff. He is participating in the Met Opera's mixology contest tonight where he will create a cocktail inspired by Verdi's Macbeth. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

The Ward III cocktail ``Hell Bent For Leather'' was created by Michael Neff. He is participating in the Met Opera's mixology contest tonight where he will create a cocktail inspired by Verdi's Macbeth. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

It’s not that I’m a spoilsport, but marauding gangs of fun-loving drunks just don’t do it for me.

My Irish half loves St. Patrick, Erin’s patron saint, and New York’s 251-year-old tradition of saluting him. My Scottish half can’t be bothered to put on something green.

So I plan to honor the occasion by drinking Irish-whiskey cocktails in shamrock-free bars.

The Raines Law Room

Named for a Prohibition era regulation, The Raines Law Room is almost the antithesis of a St. Patrick’s Day vibe. The street entrance to the cocktail bar is marked just by a small plaque near the doorbell. Inside it’s dark and cozy. The only green I saw was the lime in my drink.

Head bartender Meaghan Dorman (yes, she’s packing Irish ancestry) has created the Madame George. She uses Bushmills Black Bush Irish whiskey, because she likes the dark, fruity notes, and accentuates with Cherry Heering liqueur and house- made ginger syrup.

If I stop in on Saturday I will consider sitting behind the gauzy curtains in the semi-private area. There’s also a tiny barroom where guests can watch the shaking and stirring.

A topic of conversation will inevitably be the wallpaper’s silhouettes of pretty people in various poses, arms and legs akimbo.

Seating reservations aren’t taken on most nights. If you show up, they’ll take your number and you’ll have to wait elsewhere until they phone you to say a space is available. At 48 W. 17th St. Information:

Ward III

Last week on my way into the Tribeca bar Ward III, I was cussed out by a driver for giving him a sideways look. I’m not a violent person, but once I got inside, the Hell Bent For Leather cocktail caught my eye. It read like an episode of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

It’s a beefy roundup of 12-year-old Redbreast Irish whiskey, Maker’s Mark 46 and cardamom, and it made me feel invincible. After the verbal lashing I got for jaywalking, I needed it.

This place has a rough-hewn feel that would be at home in Brooklyn and the hip kids favor it. It’s loud with a high tin ceiling and a long bar where the magic happens.

The menu offers prominently displayed rules that range from the mundane “start a tab” to the outrageous “cut yourself off.”

If I’m downtown on Saturday I’ll stop in for a Hell Bent and a plate of duck nachos and hope the rules apply every day.

Watch out for the slight slope of the floor in the seating area. At 111 Reade St. Information: +1-212-240-9195.


At the very start of the parade route at 46th Street and Fifth Avenue sits a newly opened, light-filled restaurant with a top-notch cocktail bar called Vitae.

The dining room and lounge area are divided by a striking custom-designed screen made of nickel, and the motif is repeated on the flooring. Mirrors and a sleek glass-encased staircase to the upstairs dining area expand the room visually.

The place is chic and fashionable, and I felt beautiful just sitting on the white-leather stool.

Bar Manager Daniel Brancusi (recently in D.C. with the award-winning chef Jose Andres) and his Irish head bartender, Gerry Corcoran (formerly at PDT and Eleven Madison Park), came up with the Gaelic Cup as a play on a Pimm’s Cup. The drink includes Bushmills, Pig’s Nose Scotch, Drambuie, Orange Curacao, Cherry Heering, Punt e Mes and a salted cucumber.

This heady mixture is balanced, refreshing and goes down easily. It’s the kind of drink that will make Vitae a destination for cocktail enthusiasts. I’ll go to this bar again, but the only green I’ll wear is my eyes.

The food here is also a standout. Information: +1-212-682- 3562;

Stone Rose Lounge

If I decide to celebrate on Saturday afternoon, I’ll be sitting in front of the gigantic wall of windows at Stone Rose Lounge sipping The Whiskey while watching the revelers dodge traffic below in Columbus Circle.

The drink is made with Jameson, sweet vermouth, the mixologist’s favorite, Cherry Heering, and my favorite, absinthe.

With all that booze you’d never know it, but the lounge is offering what they describe as “a more mellow celebration.”

I suspect that’s just because the inebriates won’t be able to make it up to the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center. If they knew about the Jameson tasting menu for $35 that even includes James Gold reserve, they’d simply fall into their green beer.

Stone Rose Lounge will serve a corned beef and cabbage sandwich on St. Patrick’s Day. At 10 Columbus Circle. Information: +1-212-823-9769;

(Catherine Smith writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Smith in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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