I THINK we have been very lucky with autumn so far. The sun has made plenty of appearances, but the nights are fair drawing in. I do enjoy the change in weather, with colder nights, especially with a nice whiskey in hand.
Another drink that is great for a cold night is a brandy—great to warm your cockles, for cooking or even in a cocktail or two. Brandy is not something I write about very often, simply because traditionally the Irish don’t make brandy, except apple brandy. A number of English brandies have been released over the last few years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if an Irish distiller is working on a brandy as I write this.
However, as with all good drink stories, the Irish are at the heart of it. One of the biggest shocks to me when I left Ireland was that very few pubs sold Hennessy. I never questioned why the Irish brandy of choice was always Hennessy but, like most stories involving the Irish it was down to immigration or exile.
Limerick is known as the Treaty County. This refers to the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 when, outnumbered by the forces of William of Orange, an embattled Patrick Sarsfield held out for as long as possible. With the war at a standstill, Sarsfield was offered safe passage for himself and his army to France. Of course, the English never honoured the treaty and enforced penal laws. These soldiers became known as ‘The Wild Geese.’
Most of these solders that landed in France joined the army and spread across Europe—we’re good at that. The Irish were so good at fighting that France had an Irish brigade for over a century, established by Sarsfield and continued by the thousands fleeing penal laws. Many joined other armies across Europe and even South America. There were 11 Field Marshalls or Generals with the surname of Welsh, of Irish descent. Other notable Irish descendants who became powerful political figures include, A McMahon, President of France, Bernardo O’Higgins, who helped lead Chile to independence. Arguably, the most famous of all is Admiral William Brown, the Father of the Argentine Navy.
Another of these Wild Geese was a man called Richard Hennessy the son of Lord Ballymacmoy of Cork. He left for France in 1724 to join the French Army like many before him. He was injured in 1745 fighting with the Irish Brigade in the Battle of Fontenoy and retired in the Cognac region of France. Richard began making brandy and started to develop the Hennessy brand with minor success. Then, his son James would grow his father’s business to what would be to the largest brandy empire today.
And today I am making an iconic brandy cocktail. This is a Between the Sheets.
BETWEEN THE SHEETS
—25ml orange liqueur (such as triple sec)
—25ml lemon juice, freshly squeezed
—Shake in a Boston Shaker
—Strain into a Nick and Nora glass
—Garnish with orange twist and sugar around the rim (optional)
Mickey Mullan is a proud Derryman, an award-winning spirit enthusiast and the Manager of Malones Bar in Glasgow