Warm Up to St. Patrick's With an Irish Whiskey Skin

Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

During these brisk/balmy, lion/lamb days of March, the turn of season alternately calls for something light and fresh - and also with a hint of warmth.

Mellower than Irish Coffee, and good for whatever ails you, the Irish Whiskey Skin is a bright and zesty pick for St. Patrick’s Day.

You can spot a Whiskey Skin from across the room, thanks to its very distinctive garnish: a long, ribbon-like strip of lemon peel. An old-time Irish cousin of the Hot Toddy, the Whiskey Skin is a smooth blend of rich, flavorful whiskey, lemon rind, and hot water (with a little sugar mixed in if you should so choose).

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I came across this recipe while looking through The Merchant Hotel Bar Book (an import from Belfast - and the same source as the Hot Rum Cow), which in turn directed me to that old-time classic, The Bon Vivant's Companion (updated as Imbibe! by David Wondrich) as an original source.

But as a long-time fan of the Hot Toddy, I was a little skeptical - this Whiskey Skin sounded too watery. A Toddy without the astringency of tea - and the soothing sweetness of honey? Could a strip of fresh lemon peel really work as a sub-in for lemon juice? The answer turned out to be Yes.

While both recipes I consulted recommended the Irish whiskey Redbreast 12 year, David Wondrich also suggested something on the Scottish side: a smoky, peaty Islay malt. I had a little Laphroaig on hand and found it worked quite nicely - the flavor still shone through despite being diluted with hot water, and the essential oils from the lemon peel gave it a subtle citrus flavor without the added acidity of juice.

Irish Whiskey Skin

Makes 1 serving

1 1/2 ounces flavorful Irish Whiskey (Redbreast 12 year or Connemara are good choices, or if you want to go Scottish, an Islay malt will also work well)
1 cup boiling water
Lemon rind, peeled in a long, thin strip (instructions here)
Demerara sugar or cane syrup (optional - I left the sweetener out)

While the water’s boiling, pour the whiskey and prepare a strip of lemon rind, draping it over the side of the mug. Add sugar if desired. Pour in the hot water and stir gently. Sláinte!

(Adapted from The Merchant Hotel Bar Book volume 2 by Sean James Muldoon and Imbibe! by David Wondrich)

Are planning any special drinks for St. Patrick’s Day?

Related: The Trouble With Irish Whiskey (and James Joyce Cocktails)

(Images: Nora Maynard)

-Nora