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  • Writer's pictureJennifer DiPasquale

My Evolution as a "Drinker"

Every good story starts with “back in the day”, and this one is no exception. Back in the day, okay maybe that isn’t the best opening. Back in college (much better) drinking alcohol for me served one purpose, get drunk! When I think back to the absolute crap I drank it makes me sick, and it did then too. Beer was definitely my go to, and not good beer. Remember Ice beers… “Beast” Ice was probably the lowlight of what I put into my body. All of this reminiscing is making my stomach turn. Let’s move on.

After college I thought, “it is time to up my drinking game”. So, I started drinking “good” beer - the craft beer boom was in full effect. The darker the beer the better. While all of my friends were ordering fancy, fruity cocktails or classy wines, I was slugging back stouts and the occasional wheat beer. I think that was the time period where I really started to think of alcohol as something more than a means to get goofy. It was enjoyable to drink different beers. I was much more discerning about what I would drink. I even began researching the brewing companies of the beers I really enjoyed. Being the girl in the group drinking beer instead of cocktails or wine was just fine by me. Then I turned 40.

Don’t let anyone lie to you about turning 40 - things change. You feel a little more mature, you know what you like and what you don’t like, and unfortunately for me my digestive system did not like my beer drinking. Like someone flipping a switch, after 40 beers started to make me feel bloated and full. Then the worst part, headaches. I had narrowed down my beer selection to Miller Lite and Guinness (which I still enjoy occasionally). This took all the fun out of hanging out with friends and choosing different beers to try and evaluate. It felt like I had slipped back into my college drinking. I decided to try some vodka drinks, but they were usually too sweet or I just didn’t enjoy them. Rum wasn’t an option (bad experience in college). And gin just tasted like sucking on a pine tree. Whiskey wasn’t even on my radar. Until one night going out with a group of colleagues and someone ordered a Makers Mark and ginger ale. I inquired and he offered a sip. Wow! What was that?!? I was hooked!

That was a Friday night and by that Sunday I was at a brunch with a friend drinking Seelbachs. I was instantly a bourbon fan. I wanted to learn everything I could about this amazing American made spirit. I began reading everything I could about the history of bourbon. Soon I was planning my first trip to Kentucky to tour distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. The flavor profiles of different bourbons was fun to discover and led me to exploring Scotch whisky (that’s not a typo, they leave out the e on purpose), Irish whiskey, and even Japanese whisky (Japanese whiskey makers learned their craft, and spelling, in Scotland). Each whiskey type has differing flavor profiles, along with a rich history. I am not sure which I enjoy more, the taste or the stories.

Learning about the different types of whiskey, where and how they are made, led me to discover whiskey based cocktails. Well, my friend Dawn, the best bartender in Pittsburgh, may have been the reason I discovered whiskey cocktails. She makes an Irish whiskey based cocktail I could drink all day every day. It was her cocktail making classes that gave me the confidence to start crafting cocktails at home. And that led to this website.

So in honor of my friend I am going to give you the recipe for my favorite Irish whiskey cocktail - Dawn’s Michael Collins. Full disclosure, she was never officially given me the recipe but I have consumed so many I have figured out something very close.

Michael Collins


2oz Jameson Irish Whiskey

1oz Birch Syrup (recipe below)

1oz Lemon juice

Seltzer water

Lemon slice

1. Add ice to a shaker

2. Add whiskey, birch syrup, lemon juice to the shaker

3. Shake to chill and strain into a highball glass and top with seltzer

4. Garnish with lemon slice

Birch Syrup

1 12oz bottle or can of birch beer

½ cup light brown sugar

1. Add birch beer and brown sugar to a saucepan

2. Reduce the birch beer and brown sugar over medium/low heat to 50%

3. Cool and store in a sealed bottle or a mason jar

The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a month.

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