On a snowy afternoon, I met up with Rob Rutar inside Jerry’s Bar, 6301 Military Ave., and learned more about St. Patrick’s Day drinks in an hour than I had in all the St. Patrick’s Days I had celebrated in my entire life.
Rutar, who reopened the north Benson fixture a year ago this weekend, mixed equal parts Jameson and Bailey’s Irish Cream to make a Shillelagh; he topped melon liqueur with more Bailey’s to make an Irish Frog. He combined Jameson, ginger beer and fresh lime juice to make a Dublin Mule; and he mixed Bailey’s and tequila to make an Irish Cactus. He combined Bailey’s and Frangelico to make a Nutty Irishman and, weirdly, Jameson and pickle juice to make a Pickleback, which Rutar had never had before and gladly taste-tested.
“That’s pretty good,” he said.
As far as drinking holidays go, St. Patrick’s Day is one of tradition. Guinness and, of course, green beer, have long been the drinks of choice.
Rutar said his mom looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day just because of the novelty of enjoying a green beer. Rutar himself is a Guinness man.
“I’ve always loved Guinness,” he said.
But little by little, drinkers are stepping out of their comfort zones even on traditional holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, something Rutar attributes to the growing popularity of craft drinks — beers and cocktails made in small batches from special ingredients.
“What craft cocktails represent is that people’s tastes are expanding,” he said.
The cocktails that Rutar serves aren’t what he would necessarily describe as craft cocktails — Jerry’s is a neighborhood bar where many patrons come for Keno and Busch Light mini pitchers. But the trend of trying new things means that he just might serve a few Picklebacks this weekend.
Dan Matuszek, president and CEO of Brix, at Midtown Crossing and Village Pointe, said both locations would offer two festive (if unusual cocktails) this weekend. The Whiskey Clover includes Irish Whiskey, house-made grenadine, lemon juice and egg white, garnished with mint (and a bit of green food coloring). This drink is a variation of a pre-Prohibition drink called the Clover Club. Brix will also serve a beer cocktail called an Irish Fiji, which includes Guinness, spiced rum, Tawny Port and simple syrup. Both drinks will also be available with green smoked ice, for an extra festive touch. “Consumers love the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day, but we also find that they’re more adventurous than ever when it comes to craft cocktails and different ways to integrate spirits with the beer category,” Matuszek said.
They also love straight-up beer.
Chris Bettini, a bartender at the Crescent Moon Ale House at 36th and Farnam, said craft breweries had prepared special beers for the Irish holiday.
“Sure, everyone knows about Guinness, Smithwicks (the “W” is silent) and Harp, and making a Black and Tan with Guinness and Bass is an old traditional drink,” he said. “But American craft breweries are turning out some great beer.”
Among those, he said, are Boulevard Irish Ale and the North Coat Brewing Company’s Old No. 38 Stout. Locally, the Nebraska Brewing company makes Farrell’s Irish Red. The Crescent Moon will tap a cask version of this brew on Saturday, and Bettini said he wouldn’t be surprised if it there wasn’t any left by the time St. Patrick’s Day rolls around on Sunday.
Even with so many options, Rutar said he expects to serve an awful lot of green beer over the weekend. Jerry’s Bar will celebrate its first anniversary on Saturday, and the theme is green. He’ll serve green beer, as well as corned beef and cabbage. The Omaha Pipes and Drums will play twice — at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
In short, it will be big on tradition, even though it’s as much an anniversary party as a St. Patrick’s Day shindig.
But for those who want to branch out, Rutar is willing to help.
“If you really want something different, we’ve got the Pickleback.”
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