As St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, many folks will take part in activities they believe are inherently Irish such as watching parades, wearing green and hitting the pubs. But in actuality, these traditions stem from the U.S. rather than the Emerald Isle.
According to National Geographic, colonial New York City hosted the first official St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1762, when Irish immigrants in the British colonial army marched down city streets. In contrast, Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is a little more than 75 years old.
In the States, it’s customary to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. But in Ireland, the color was long considered to be unlucky, says Bridget Haggerty, author of “The Traditional Irish Wedding” and the Irish Culture and Customs website.
And perhaps most surprising is that pubs in Ireland were closed by law on St. Patrick’s Day, a national religious holiday, as recently as the 1970s.
While many great brews, including Guinness, Murphy’s, Caffrey’s and Smithwicks hail from Ireland, the black and tan, a beer cocktail layered with a stout and ale, actually originated in England. Because it is made with Guinness, the black and tan is often considered an Irish elixir. However, the style is believed to have originated in Britain with drinkers ordering a mix of dark stout and draught bitter.
According to Washington Post beer columnist Greg Kitsock, The black and tan – properly, a blend of Guinness Draught and Bass ale – dates from 19th century England. A few American brewers, including Yuengling, currently make bottled versions of the black and tan, yet they lack the visual appeal of a freshly poured pint.
But if you find yourself in a pub in Ireland, it’s best not to order a black and tan. Black and tans are the nickname given to the British paramilitary force formed to suppress the Irish Independence movement in 1920 and 1921. The name comes from the mixture of police uniforms and khaki that they wore.
If you wish to imbibe a Black and Tan in the states this holiday, go ahead, but make it an all-Irish combination by substituting Smithwick’s Irish Ale in place of the British-made Bass. Or try a half and half, a more highly contrasting version of the drink made by substituting Harp lager for ale.
The secret to making a perfectly layered pint is to pour the beer slowly using a spoon. Specially made black and tan spoons are available, but a regular kitchen spoon will also do the job. The spoon will keep the Guinness from mixing with the ale, allowing it to layer on top. You must use Guinness Draught, which comes with a nitrogen widget, otherwise the stout will not float properly.
All-Irish Black and Tan
1/2 pint(s) Guinness Draught
1/2 pint(s) Smithwicks Ale
From a chilled bottle, fill a clean pint glass just over halfway with Smithwick’s Ale. Open a chilled can of Guinness Draught. The head will rise. Prepare to pour. Place spoon face down on the rim of the glass and slowly pour your newly opened Guinness over it. Fill just short of the rim.