Learn All About Irish Whiskey with From Barley to Blarney

It’s no secret that the team behind one of the most successful bars in the U.S., The Dead Rabbit, know a thing or two about whiskey. With two cocktail books under their belt and what seems like countless awards for bar excellence, they have established From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland (Andrews McMeel 2019), the team has taken their expertise and applied it to the oldest of whiskey traditions, Irish whiskey.

From Barley to Blarney
From Barley to Blarney

On the genesis of the book, Dead Rabbit proprietors Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon said it came down to the rapid growth and the sheer excitement around the category right now.

“With so many new distilleries opening in Ireland we wanted to have the latest informative [guide] with what’s happening in the world of Irish Whiskey. And there’s so much happening. Now is the time,” they said.

Written with Tim Herlihy (who you will remember from our Irish whiskey episode of The Manual podcast) and Conor Kelly, From Barley to Blarney explores everything about Irish whiskey, from its origins — aka the origins of the entire whiskey category — through the boom and bust of the category to its recent resurgence. The book isn’t just a history lesson, though, as the team embarked on an epic journey across Ireland to visit every distillery (and with many distilleries now in-progress, only the ones with stills made it into the book, according to McGarry and Muldoon) and 160 of Ireland’s pubs (50 made their way into the book).

From Barley to Blarney Madden's Belfast
The ‘From Barley to Blarney’ team at Madden’s Belfast. From Barley to Blarney

The book is broken into six main sections: the history, styles, and production of Irish whiskey, guides to visiting and understanding the different distilleries and pubs of the four provinces of Ireland, a section on Dublin, and the final section which contains a selection of Irish whiskey cocktails and other extras.

You’ll have not only a solid base of Irish whiskey and pub knowledge but also the will to hop on the first jet to Dublin.

The text of the book is both friendly and informative. It’s as if you are sitting at one of these very pubs, and the authors are telling you about the trip themselves. This allows a lot of information to be packed in without being overwhelming. If you knew nothing about Irish whiskey before picking up the book, it doesn’t matter. By the end, you’ll have not only a solid base of Irish whiskey and Irish pub knowledge but also the will and wish to hop on the first jet to Dublin and start your very own journey.

And why do the authors think you should do that very thing? Because the range and breadth of innovation in the Irish whiskey category right now is phenomenal.

“Non-oak finishes like chestnut, plus beer, cider, rum, and fortified wine casks are all being utilized for flavor,” McGarry and Muldoon said, adding that the return of Dublin Pot Still Irish Whiskey, as well as oats, wheat, and rye being added back into mash bills, are also invigorating signposts for the future of Irish whiskey.

The biggest question about From Barley to Blarney, perhaps, is what to drink while reading the book. While you can go with a nice dram of neat Irish whiskey, the cocktails at the back of the book offer up numerous delicious options to shake or stir up as well. Below, you can check out the recipe for one of our favorites, The Grindstone.

The Grindstone

From Barley to Blarney The Grindstone cocktail Tullamore DEW
From Barley to Blarney

“This is a lovely summery riff on the classic Stone Fence cocktail. The original dates back to the American Revolutionary War. The story goes that the night before the Green Mountain Boys attacked the British-held Fort Ticonderoga, they drank a mixture of rum and hard cider for courage. This version is altogether more peaceable, highlighting the whiskey’s unusual cider cask finish.”

  • 4 ounces semi-dry cider
  • 5 ounces Tullamore D.E.W. Cider Cask
  • .75 ounce American Fruits Apple Liqueur
  • .5 ounce Green Chartreuse
  • 2 dashes Boston Bittah’s

Method: Build in a highball glass with big chunks of ice. Squeeze a lemon twist over the top and discard.

Cocktail and photos reprinted with permission from From Barley to Blarney: A Whiskey Lover’s Guide to Ireland by Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, Tim Herlihy, and Conor Kelly; Andrews McMeel 2019.

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