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.

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!

Fundació Joan Miró

Joan Miró was a Catalan artist (born 1893 in Barcelona), who worked in many mediums producing art lithographs, murals, tapestries, and sculptures for public spaces as well as being a prolific abstract painter. A visit to the Fundació Joan Miró is wonderful experience if you enjoy modern art.

The building in Barcelona is light and modern, with well apportioned gallery space and a very interesting selection of his work from the early realist paintings influenced by Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh though to his later Surrealist work. Joan Miró always instead that he did not belong to any specific art school, but his works exhibit a dream-like, subconscious quality which is indicative of the Surrealists. Throughout his life he developed a style which included cosmically symbolic elements; and there is a definable tension between the dream-like poetic images from his mind which are contrasted with the harsh realities of life in the real world…

In many interviews from the 1930s on-wards, Joan Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods, which he saw as a device to support a bourgeois society. He went on to declare an “assassination of painting” and decreed to upset the visual elements of established painting. At the time, this was no doubt seen as a radical and exciting mission to followers of the Surrealist movement!

His work from around 1937 took on a political meaning, but his wonderful constellations (as above) shifted the focus to the subjects of women, birds, and the moon, which dominated his iconography for a great deal of the rest of his career (he died in 1983).

* If you visiting for the first time the audio guide is in valuable as there is very little description next to the artworks, many of which are difficult to decipher without extra information. Please note that for purchase of the audio guide you will need documents or identification to leave at the desk otherwise a returnable deposit of 50 euros is required.

Casa Batlló: Barcelona

Casa Batlló is an outstanding architectural delight. Once the family home of Antoni Gaudi, the building has been restored with much respect of its architectural heritage, opening to the public as a private museum to the in 2002. It design is unprecedented in the architectural world, and on The Noble floor which was the main living space of the family, there is not a single straight line to be found anywhere  The fluid, fluctuating textures of the walls echo the natural ebb and flow of the tide. Each softly curved surface creates the illusion of the building as a living, breathing creature, and at times it feels as if you are inside a giant beautiful mollusk, deep in depths of the sea.

A visit to the Casa Batlló is a wonderful surreal experience; the museum have used the latest technology to make each visit as informative and entertaining as possible. The electronic guide, which is the same size as an iPhone, contains extra effects and images to show how the rooms would have looked completely furnished, when Gaudi lived there.

The building is surprisingly light and airy. Its central structure contains a beautifully tiled vertical shaft to a decorated window situated on the surface of the Dragon Roof Terrace, which provides both light and internal ventilation. Not one of the tiles has a straight surface and the carefully coordinated colour gradient gives the impression that it is as light at the bottom as the top!

The stunning roof terrace is shaped like the vertebra of a dragons back, and is decorated with carnival masks of the dragon’s victims. The design is a celebration of the legend of Saint Jordi (Saint George) who is the patron saint of  Catolonia. It’s a wonderfully romantic story of damsel rescued by a dashing knight!

Exterior Casa Batllo
Interior: The Nobel Floor
Interior: The Nobel Floor: Stained glass which appears to be made from different colours from each side!
Interior: The Nobel Floor; huge golden light in the center of the sitting room ceiling
The Noble Floor: fabulous jeweled chandelier
View from interior stairwell
View from interior stairwell
Exterior coutyard
Dragon rooftop terrace
Dragon rooftop terrace

Beautiful Barcelona!

Just back from my holidays, where I enjoyed a city break in Barcelona. The temperature, as you would expect at this time of year, was very hot and the humidity was also high – even for a visitor from sunny Cyprus! Despite the crowds, the atmosphere was relaxed and the city was in full bloom…

There was so much to see, and I will be doing a couple of blogs to celebrate the art, architecture and beauty of the city, but I am beginning with a general selection of my photographs, and hopefully you will find the views as interesting as I did!

View from hotel balcony
View from hotel balcony
Placa Catalunya
Placa Catalunya
Statue in Placa Catalunya
Statue in Placa Catalunya
La Rambla
La Rambla
 Indoor Market at La Rambla
Indoor Market at La Rambla
Barcelona Cathedral
Barcelona Cathedral
Interior Placa Catalunya
Interior Barcelona Cathedral
Interior Barcelona Catherdral
Interior Barcelona Cathedral
Habor view from cable car
Habor view from cable car
La Pedrera
La Pedrera
Balcony La Pedrera
Balcony La Pedrera
Placa Reial
Placa Reial

Finikoudes – Larnaca seafront and marina before the tourists arrive!

The seafront is now bustling with tourists and the sun brollies are all up on the beach. I took a couple of pictures of Larnaca while it was quiet back in March, obviously its a lot busier now. I was told recently by a local bus driver that the promenade, Finikoudes, was named after the palm tree which is opposite the police station; I am not sure if this is true, but it is certainly a nice story!









European Lakes & Mountains

There are few exotic destinations which combine luxury, beauty, relaxation and wild adventure quite as comprehensively as the top lakes and mountain destinations in Europe. Although they are often underestimated as being suitable for only winter skiing, a lakes and mountain holiday has a lot more to offer than just sport. The mountains of Europe are a magnet for poetry lovers as well as those who wish to surround themselves with the unsurpassed beauty of nature. Whatever your particular travel requirement, here is a unique selection of Europes’ most exciting and also most relaxing, lakes and mountains exotic travel destinations.

Kitzbühel is a small medieval town of the Tyrol, which is situated in the Kitzbühel Alps on the Kitzbüheler Ache river. Its valley location and charming cobbled streets offer an impressive selection of exclusive shops and cafes as well as a casino. Kitzbühel is a ski resort of international renown; one of the largest in Austria with 168 kilometers of slopes, as well as 40 kilometers of groomed cross-country skiing tracks. There is also the relatively new 3S Cable Car, which has the highest above ground span in the world. Kitzbühel is an extremely exclusive resort, which caters for the most discerning of travellers, and is popular with celebrities and the jet set. The town is vibrant during in the summer, with tennis championships as well as boating activities on the stunning lake Schwarzsee…Read More

Travel Blog

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 Hi!  If you didn’t already know, I have a travel blog on blogger,  and here is my latest post at:

 If you fancy a little armchair travelling, why not let me whisk  you away to an exotic destination?

Travel fiction: Koyoto Japan

 Do you feel like travelling to somewhere exotic today?


To most discerning travelers, the thought of a trip to Japan is enough to fire their souls with pure inspiration. Japan is a place which can surpass the boundaries of imagination; a place where modern innovative design co-exists in perfect harmony with the beauty and elegance of ancient architecture. In my journey to Kyoto, the cultural beating heart of Japan, I begin my search for a truly transcendent experience…Read more…

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