An unusual cookie confection known as Irish Potatoes are a St Patrick’s day tradition in Philadelphia where I live.
Mounds of cream cheese and coconut are coated in cinnamon and can be found all over the city during March. The candy is made of coconut, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, then coated in cinnamon giving it the appearance of a small potato. As far as I know they’re found only in the Philly vicinity, and mostly around the annual St Patty’s Day celebration. I grew up eating them during this special end of winter holiday celebration.
Don’t laugh, but they were the inspiration for my cocktail. I chose the Knappogue Castle 12 Year Single Malt Irish Whiskey which has a beautiful sweet mid palate with some fruit to brighten it and a nice spicy finish that I chose to accentuate. I thought it played well with the creamy sweetness and spicy coating of the St Patty’s day treat. So, I chose to bring in a bit of spice from a liqueur and brighten it up with coconut. Flavor wise it reminds me a bit of something you might find on a tropical island, and beyond the Irish Whiskey it doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Ireland, but then again neither do palm trees and Ireland has those … well, sort of.
The Irish Palm
By Kyle Darrow
- 2 oz. Knappogue Castle 12 Year
- .5 oz. Drambuie
- .25 oz. Allspice Dram
- 5 dashes Toasted Coconut Bitters*
- Coconut Water Ice Cubes
*Toasted Coconut Bitters
Remove flesh from the shell of one coconut and place in a flat pan over medium high heat. Cook dry until coconut turns slightly brown and fragrant. Transfer to a clean glass jar and add enough high proof rum to cover plus 1 inch. Allow to sit for one week then strain through a fine mesh strainer, then again through cheese cloth.
Preparation: Crush a cinnamon stick into a pile on a heat resistant surface and char gently with a culinary torch. Flip a snifter over it to extinguish the flame and capture its smoke; set aside. Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with the coconut water cubes. Stir until well chilled and strain neat into the smoked snifter.
Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskey is named after a beautiful 15th century castle that stands in County Clare, Ireland. The castle was purchased in the 1960s by Mark Edwin Andrews. He is known for bottling Knappogue Castle Irish single malt whiskeys at a time when only blended whiskeys were popular in Ireland and around the world.
Knappogue Castle Single Malt Irish Whiskey is made from malted barley, triple distilled a batch at a time in copper pot stills and aged in ex-bourbon oak casks for a minimum of 12 years. The portfolio includes Knappogue Castle 12-year-old, limited editions Knappogue Castle Twin Wood 14 and 16-year-old, as well as Knappogue Castle 1951, revered by connoisseurs as the oldest and rarest Irish whiskey commercially available.
Meet Kyle Darrow
CHILLED 100 Member, Philadelphia
Kyle got his start in the industry working weekend nights at a 24-hour diner while getting his degree from Virginia Tech. “The high I got from running around got me hooked,” shares Kyle. From there he moved back to Philadelphia and is now the head barman at Red Owl Tavern in the Hotel Monaco, located across the street from Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell.
Kyle believes in a mindful approach to bartending. “It’s all a balancing game,” he says. For him, that balance lies between the experience and the craft.
“With service, there are two parties involved—the guest, and me. It’s those times when both parties are on the same page that personal connections are made and that’s what makes this job special to me. They’re in my home away from home, and I have the power to alter someone’s mood and change his whole day around. When a guest arrives, I can give him a refreshing drink that makes him feel special, or a warm comforting drink that makes him feel like he’s home even if he’s thousands of miles away.”
Taking pride in his craft is important, but he tries to keep his ego in check. “I think cocktail menus should be made for your guests without influence from your own ego. It shouldn’t be ‘look what I can do,’ it should be more like, ‘this is what I can do for you.’ Most guests don’t have the same amount of knowledge as the bartender, nor should they. It’s my profession, and my responsibility to have the knowledge of spirits and techniques. I educate guests that are interested in it, but my list is heavily influenced by what people ask for, with some cool techniques or interesting flavors that keep it exciting for me, too.”