Irish Coffee & Classic Hot Winter Drinks

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As the long winter evenings approach and the climate becomes cooler, what could be nicer than to enjoy an exciting spice infused punch, enticing flamed cocktail or wonderfully warming Irish coffee? With such a wide variety to choose from, where did the fashion for hot drinks begin?

As the name suggests Irish coffee did in fact originate from a restaurant near an air base at Limerick in Ireland. In 1942, a young chef was asked to prepare a special drink to warm passengers on a stopover flight to America. He brewed a dark, rich coffee, added some good quality Irish whiskey, a little brown sugar and floated freshly whisked cream on the top. When a surprised American traveller asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?” the inventive chef, Joe Sheridan replied, “No its Irish coffee!” and the classic hot drink was born.

Irish coffee is not the easiest of hot drinks to make; it can be tricky is to keep the cream separate on the top, instead of disbursed throughout the glass, before serving. To achieve the desired effect, make sure the coffee is piping hot and if you are using single or double cream, pour it slowly over the back of a spoon so that it floats on the top; with whipped cream, spoon it gently on the surface to ensure an attractive serving. Sugar is a matter of taste, the classic Irish recipe specifies brown sugar is be added immediately after the whiskey, but if you are unsure if a guest would appreciate the extra sweetness, then it can be served as an accompaniment after serving.

A perennial winter classic is the drink affectionately called grog. This drink was originally named after a British sea captain nick named ‘old grog’ in the 18th century. The drink consisted of rum mixed with water, a dash of brown sugar and lime. The original recipe has undergone many transformations and refinements over the years, but has become particularly popular in Germany, where it is called ‘Glühwein’ or glow wine, which is a reference to the hot irons which were once used for heating or mulling it.

Punch was introduced to England from India in the early 17th century and it has since become popular though out the world.  It is typically served at parties in decorative glass punch bowls. Recipes vary, but its base should be a spirit such as vodka or rum, alternatively, red wine can be used, to which fruit juice and lime are added; as well as green tea for authenticity.

Mulled wine is the most classic Christmas cocktail; with many connoisseurs believing it represents ‘nostalgia in a glass.’ This hot drink has a traditional, ‘olde-worlde’ flavor, and is an intoxicating mix of red wine and spices, with recipes varying from country to country, defined by local tastes and preferences.

But it is not only the classic hot drinks which have become popular in winter. After dinner cocktails such as a flamed Sambuca or Espresso Martini, may add an extra warm glow to winter dinner parties. For guests with a particularly sweet tooth, a specially laced hot chocolate, topped with marshmallows and cream can be delightful. This delicious drink is especially appreciated by sporting enthusiasts, après-ski.

Classic hot drinks are perennially popular, but there is always room for new invention. So which hot drinks are trending this winter?  In recent months, ‘tipsy hot chocolate’ has established itself as a firm favorite. With names as charming as the ‘Polar Bear Hot Chocolate’ and ‘Russian Hot Christmas’ their popularity is hardly surprising!

Whether your tastes are traditional or experimental, on these crisp, cold days and chilly winter evenings, why not indulge your palette with a classic hot cocktail or exotic winter warmer?

Durty Nelly’s ∼ One of the Oldest Pubs in the Republic of Ireland

A wonderful old tale of whisky and intrigue at this gorgeous pub in Bunratty, Reblic of Ireland! (please note this old story contains its original spellings)

Who was Durty Nelly?

Many, many moons ago, in the misty past of Cratloe’s rolling countryside, there lived a buxom lady, tall in stature, but shapely and appealing to all.  She was known simply as Durty Nelly, a name that puzzled all who had the good fortune to meet her – but soon became apparent!

Times were hard in Ireland but the wily Nelly always found a way to make ends meet. She was keeper of the toll-bridge over the river Owengarney, which flowed outside her window on its way to join the Shannon.

All visitors who sought to cross the bridge had to pay their dues to Nelly – those who could not pay in cash paid in kind with the presentation of a chicken, a few eggs, a piece of home-cured bacon or even, legend has it, a bit of ‘comfort’ for the lady herself.

Durty Nelly was a woman of considerable charm, known to the virile men of the day from Galway to Cork, Dublin to Limerick. Nelly’s hospitality to the many travellers coming across the bridge gained her a place in many a man’s fond memories, and the legend of Nelly has been handed down through the centuries.

Durty Nelly was also renowned for her little shebeen – a special corner of the house overlooking the river where she kept a jar of whiskey, to warm the bellies of the tired and exhausted journeymen.

There came an unfortunate night when one of those travellers, a rogue from Kilrush, crept in during the night and stole poor Nelly’s savings, all the gold coins she had collected at the bridge.

The following evening, she went to bed broken-hearted and after a night of fitful sleep, awoke with a start. Occupying her mind was a clear impression of a new recipe for whiskey.  She set to work straight away, filling four of her best earthen jars from her distillery in the woods.  As she labored over the concoction, she became more and more convinced that there was magic to this brew.

Only a short time later, she came across an old Irish Wolfhound, on his last legs outside her front door. He was weak and feeble and was not long for this world. Nelly poured a drop of the poteen (her home-made whiskey) from one of the urns and carefully rubbed it into the dog’s muscles.  She left the dog to rest and took her place on the curved wall where she waited daily for the tolls. In the heat of the midday sun, she started to drop off.
Two or three hours later, she was disturbed from her slumber by a warm wet feeling in her palm: with a shock, she realised it was the Wolfhound, licking her hand.  He raced across the bridge exuberantly, showing no sign of his previous malaise.

This extraordinary occurrence had not gone unnoticed by Nelly’s neighbours in Bunratty, and news quickly spread that she had a special potion, one which would bring the gift of new life.

And so they came in droves from all over the country seeking “the cure” for that lame horse, the sick piglet, the slowing greyhound or the muscle-bound athlete.  Each visitor left with a renewed vigor, cured of all ills.

The Little House by the bridge grew with the increased trade and became a landmark in Munster for the high quality of its refreshment – both food and drink.

One day, a young woman from Rineanna (now Shannon International Airport) came to see Durty Nelly with a broken heart. She was married for three years but sadly remained childless.  She confessed to Nelly that she believed it was because her husband lacked any warmth in his attentions. She wanted to try the cure on him, to see if he too could be brought ‘back to life’ within their marriage.

From the first sip of the smooth liquid, the woman’s husband was a changed man. His wife could never complain of his powers as a loving husband. His virility thrilled her and resulted in the birth of 3 sons and 2 daughters within six years – and she still retained her beauty in body and charm.

News of the miracle brew spread far and wide across Ireland and Durty Nelly’s ‘cure’ found a place on the shelves of her hostelry as the drink to cure all ills – with a tot of the powerful drink, men became virile and strong, thrilling their women and gaining triumph in all battles.

Durty Nelly had discovered one of Ireland’s best-loved secret brews, famed for its purity, strength and health-giving powers – poteen.

Times have changed and poteen is no longer a legal drink in Ireland. Because of its unusual power and danger if consumed to excess, it had to be ‘officially’ outlawed.
But to this day, it is distilled among the hills and valleys of the land. It continues to relieve pain and restore new life – there is a many a champion hurler, footballer, athlete – and even racehorse – whose rubdown is well-laced with poteen.

Down through the years, the house of Durty Nelly has thrived. It has brought refreshment and comfort to many a weary traveller and it has remained the noted gateway to the stunningly beautiful West of Ireland.  Men and women who saw plantations, penal laws, great hunger and countless battles over time have traversed this famous bridge and stopped for a quick drop in the comforts of this famous tavern.

Durty Nelly’s hospitality, warmth and generosity of spirit have remained in this most welcoming of public houses for centuries since her death.  When you stop by some afternoon, think of her and toast her memory with a tot of the ‘good stuff.’

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Nelly’s Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.


Click to find out more about Durty Nellys.

The Lovely Town of Ennis, Co. Clare ∼ The Perfect Fictional Location?

“Fun, relaxation, good humour and decent human friendliness await all visitors to Ennis,” declares the town’s tourist website – and indeed this true, if my recent visit to this very charming town in Co. Clare, was anything to go by. I have never been to anywhere quiet like this and my excitement at my visit was definitely increased as I had used Ennis as the location of one of my noir short stories, Every Move You Make, the title of which was taken from that classic stalker song by Police.

It can feel a little strange to mix fact with fiction in this way, but I chose Ennis because it is has so much natural charm and old fashioned hospitality that it seemed ideal for my noir story, which is based in several Ennis locations – some of which are identifiable from these photos. It might be fun to try and spot them; I will add the link to my story below.

Getting back to the real town of Ennis, which is situated on the River Fergus, just north of where it enters the Shannon Estuary. The town lies north west of Limerick and south of Galway and is also only a short drive away from Shannon Airport, which gives access to many flights to the US – and there are often many American accents to be heard when out and about in the town!

The Irish name for the town is short for Inis Cluain Ramh Fhada; meaning “island of the long rowing meadow” which is quite beautiful don’t you think?

My short featuring characters Finola and Declan is the first in a series of Ennis adventures, with the second already written (but without a home as yet) and the third in construction. If you enjoy a noir tale or a stalker story why not check it out the first story here?…/every-move-you-make-by-sonia-kilvington

“It’s difficult,” she muttered nervously.

“In your own good time,” replied Declan as graciously as he could on a very dull Monday morning, to an equally dull looking client, who was already testing his patience.

Finola felt out of place in this tired, dreary office. She had already tried to craft a reasonable explanation for her visit. One that wouldn’t sound too ridiculous or paranoid, although from his weary, world-worn expression; she imagined that Declan had already heard many stories which were much more harrowing than her own. Still avoiding his gaze, her eyes strayed to a fragment of loose wallpaper hanging off the moldy smelling wall, next to her chair. She fought a strong urge to grasp the scrap between her fingers and peel it away, slowly, slowly, until it rested in the palm of her hand.

Declan cleared his throat purposefully, in a manner which implied that his time was not only valuable, but highly billable, too,

“So, what is it that you think I can I do for you?” he asked directlyRead more

A Grand Day in Kilkee ∼Co. Clare, Ireland.

There can be fog, high winds and seeping dampness, but if it is not raining, it will certainly be declared ‘a grand day’ in Co.Clare, Republic of Ireland! And when the sun is shining, it is such a beautiful, charming place.

A twenty five minute drive from Ennis, Co. Clare took us to the beautiful seaside town of Kilkee. Kilkee is midway between Kilrush, with is charming individually coloured houses (a little like on Balamory, the children’s programme) and Doonbeg on the N67.

Kilkee has a wonderful smooth, sandy beach, which is popular for family walks, even in the colder winter months, as well as an extremely blustery cliff walk, more suited to calmer days. There is a surfing centre for the very brave and a good selection of cafés with homemade cakes, scones and full meals for those in need of refreshment or a warming drink on their day out.

I was very lucky to have ‘a very grand day’ with barely any rain at all in the morning until lunch time. The views were stunning and the cliff top walk was definitely bracing. In the small café with sea views, the photos displayed on its walls showed much less accommodating weather with wild storms lashing over the seawalls; partially engulfing some of the buildings. Although quite scary, I imagine it to be an exciting and spectacular sight. To my surprise I found that my warming coffee had been specially imported from Seattle; which seemed a long way across the stormy Atlantic, from where I was sitting admiring the lovely sea view.

If you are fortunate enough to take a trip to the charming town of Kilkee, I hope it stays dry for you too – best wishes for a grand day out!

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