Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; Michael Collins, the man and the whiskey

What would be a St. Patty’s Day Countdown without a suggestion or two for the perfect Irish Whiskey to toast in the holiday?  My personal favorite for just the right drop of the “water of life” is Michael Collins.  (Well, let me clarify that and say “one” of my favorites!  There is a reasonable chance this not the only whiskey to feature in our countdown.)

This fantastic whiskey comes from the “last independent distillery in Ireland”, the Cooley Distillery in County Louth on the northeast coast of the Republic of Ireland.  Besides being very, very drinkable, Michael Collins is best known because it bares the name of one of Ireland’s greatest heroes and someone who should be remembered by all who celebrate during the Saint Patrick’s Day season.

Collins was born in West Cork in 1890 to a family of 8 children.  He was the youngest of three sons and his father’s namesake.  The young Michael was only six years old when his father died.  On his deathbed, the elder Collins was said to have told his family the boy would one day do great things for Ireland, certainly a prophetic statement.

Michael Collins was among those who took part in the Easter Rising of 1916, the event that set in motion a pathway to Irish independence.  In the years following the Rising, Collins rose to became a leader in the Republican movement.  He led a successful underground guerilla war against the Crown, essentially crushing the British Intelligence forces in Ireland, and grew into a mythic figure in the process.  He subsequently took part in the negotiations with the United Kingdom for Ireland’s independence.  The treaty he signed, however, caused a split in the republican movement and  a brutal civil war followed.  Collins was shot and killed in the town of Beal na mBlath in his native County Cork in 1922.

Michael Collins may only have lived barely more than thirty years, but in that time he accomplished things most men could only dream to accomplish in a full lifetime.  There is so much more about the “Big Fellow” I could say, but many authors have done a far better and more thorough job of telling his story than I ever possibly could.  So instead I ask that this Saint Patrick’s Day you raise a glass with me, perhaps of Michael Collins Whiskey, and toast to one of Ireland’s great patriots.

By Dave McBride


Pub Talk’s Countdown to St. Patty’s Day; the Rock of Cashel

The Pub Talk Countdown continues, and as we get closer to Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought a few photos from Ireland may help to put you in the holiday spirit.  Today’s photo is from the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, perhaps Ireland’s most iconic building.

The Rock of Cashel

Once the home of the High Kings of Munster, no one knows exactly when the Rock of Cashel was built, but we do know it was around for hundreds of years before the Norman invasion of Ireland in 12th century.  It is a sacred and well as historic site, as legend has it Saint Patrick himself converted the High King to catholicism on this spot sometime during the 5th century.  The Rock of Cashel was handed over to the church in 1101 and it served for centuries as the seat of one of Ireland’s archbishops.  That is until Oliver Cromwell came around…

by Dave McBride


Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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In Dublin’s fair city

As I mentioned in my article “Valhalla on the Liffey,”  the plan for my first visit to Dublin was to tour as many of the city’s historic pubs as I possibly could.  The idea was to eat some dinner before heading out on our “crawl”.  But as the article says, I never crawled any further than my barstool at the Brazen Head.  However, before dinner I did manage a couple of quick stops at two of Dublin’s most famous watering holes. 

The first boasts perhaps the most beautiful exterior of any pub in Dublin, O’Neill’s on Suffolk Street.  While the license dates back centuries, the present day pub was built in the first half of the 20th Century.  However, you can see the kind of influence this place has had on Irish pubs in the United States.  How many spots in the U.S. have been influenced by this place?

The other pub I managed to get in a quick visit to, and had all intentions of going back later in the evening, was the Stag’s Head on Dame Court.  You will have a hard time finding anything written about Dublin that does not mention this place.  It is a bonafide Dublin institution.

The Stag’s Head sneaks up on you, being tucked away on a street that can easily be mistaken for an alley.  But make no mistake, when it comes to Dublin’s taverns this is the cathedral.  It’s has a majestic interior, but still manages to keep the kind of warm atmosphere one quickly recognizes in all of Dublin’s great pubs.  I didn’t manage to take any photos of the interior of the Stag’s Head, so I guess you will just have to hop over the pond and check it out for yourself.  Believe me, it’s worth the trip.

by Dave McBride

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!!

In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day is considered a holy day.  The celebration marking the death of their country’s patron saint, the man credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, is a family and church day.  But here in America, where the world’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was held in 1762 by Irish soldiers serving in the English army, it is one big party.


In the United States, the Irish pub has come to be ground zero for St. Patty’s Day celebrations.  Those marching in the many grand parades like the one in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, or just attending them, often start and end their day at the pub.  For those of Irish heritage, and those who wish they were, the Irish pub remains a special place all year long.  But on the 17th of March, people are willing to wait in long lines for hours just to belly up to one of these great bars.

And we here at the American Public House Review are no exception.  We seem to find ourselves spending time in many of America’s great Irish taverns.  So if you are sitting home today, or at the office, and you are curious about the influence Erin’s Isle has had on our country, you needn’t look any further than the archives of APHR for some great examples.


Of course few are more famous the Manhattan’s McSorley’s Ale House on the lower eastside, or P.J. Clarke’s found uptown.  Molly’s Shebeen, also downtown, ranks right there with those two in the annals of great turn of the century Irish taverns.  They are testaments to the lasting power of a great Irish pub. 


But a great tavern doesn’t need to be old to be great.  The Dubliner in Washington D.C. and the Dublin Pub in Morristown both opened in the early 1970’s, but feel as though they were transported here from Ireland’s largest city centuries ago.  For great music, try Mitchell’s Café along the Delaware River in New Jersey.  Or maybe you will be lucky enough to hear Gerry Timlin play at the Shanacie Pub in Ambler, Pa, where he is at once the entertainer, resident storyteller, and owner.

Needless to say, I love a good Irish pub.  I can literally say I was raised in them.  They are what brought me to my love of great taverns.  Yes, today may be the toughest day to get into one, and rightly so, but it is worth it.  I’ll be leaving for mine in just a couple of hours.


So from all of us here at the American Public House Review, to our readers of Irish and wishful-Irish heritage, we raise a glass and say “Thirst is a shameless disease, so here’s to a shameful cure”, and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Posted by: David McBride

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