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How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Tartan Day From Home

By Laura Dannen Redman

Mar 16, 2021

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Dublin’s streets were full on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018—feels like ages ago.

Photo by Dave Primov / Shutterstock

Dublin’s streets were full on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018—feels like ages ago.

We may not be in crowded pubs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat, drink, and be merry.

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Anyone else been dreaming of crowded pubs? Live music? Hugging friends so closely you spill your drink? As St. Patrick’s Day approaches on March 17 and National Tartan Day—an American celebration of its Scottish heritage—follows on April 6, I’m feeling nostalgic for roots revelry. We may be making progress with COVID vaccinations, but we’re not quite at elbow-room-only parties—yet. 

If you, too, have visions of Celtic fiddlers in your head (or you just want to try something new), consider a couple of at-home remedies created by our friends in Ireland and Scotland. Note: They might involve whisky, or whiskey, and a friendly rivalry between the two.

Whiskey can pair with everything from brie to blue cheese to cheddar.

Do a whiskey-and-cheese pairing

To Jack Teeling, who co-owns Teeling Whiskey with his brother Stephen, St. Patrick’s Day is “very much a social gathering and a family occasion”; their normally buzzy Dublin-based distillery will be closed this holiday, but the Teelings are still planning to mark the occasion and celebrate Irish culture. “For me, when you can’t go to the pub, and you can’t go to the parade like you normally do, it’s still a chance to celebrate Ireland and discover something new, be it Irish music, Irish whiskey, Irish cheese, et cetera,” Jack said on a recent AFAR Instagram Live. 

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Consider trying the Teeling Whiskey wine-and-cheese pairing, for whisky novices and frequent imbibers alike. Start with the Small Batch ($40, drizly.com) paired with a Brie or Camembert (“something with a creamy or sweet mouthfeel”). Next up is the Teeling Single Grain ($53, drizly.com) along with a mature Cheddar, Emmental, or Beaufort (“something with a drier texture and full body”). Finally, try a Single Malt paired with a sharp aged Cheddar, a blue cheese, or a goat cheese (“heavy, bold flavors”). Check out their blog for chocolate pairings and cocktail recipes for the holiday.

Scottish bespoke travel company Away from the Ordinary also packages at-home whisky-and-cheese sessions. You can choose to do an unhosted pairing, where they just send you the goods, or you can do a virtual tasting led by Away from the Ordinary founder Aeneas O’Hara. There’s nothing stuffy or pretentious about these conversations, and you’ll learn as much about Scotland as you do about the whisky

Pub crawl from Dublin to Belfast 

Tourism Ireland will host “St. Patrick’s Day at Home,” a virtual pub crawl with music and dancing that you can follow at a respectable time on March 17 (5:30-7:30 p.m. ET). The broadcast starts at Johnnie Fox’s Dublin, home to the Irish dancing “Hooley show,” with a performance by the Celtic Drummers. Then on to the Duke of York in Belfast, a classic mirrored whiskey bar in the historic Cathedral Quarter, with the Shamrock Tenors.

Round out the night at Dick Mack’s Pub in Dingle, an iconic only-in-Dingle bolthole that draws locals at noon, doubles as a leather shop, and is always a guaranteed spot for a bit of craic. (Know that I can highly recommend two of these three bars personally.) Follow the fun on Facebook or YouTube.

Meet the Glenfinnan Cèilidh Band (from left): Colm O'Rua (Daimh) on banjo, Iain MacFarlane (Blazin' Fiddles) on fiddle, Dougie Hunter (Hoogie) on accordion, and Ingrid Henderson (Cliar) on piano.

Follow the fiddler to the Scottish Highlands 

Away from the Ordinary recognizes the void in our lives—the absence of a really rousing live-music set and the chance to dance like crazy—and has planned a night in that feels like a night out. On April 3, in the run-up to Tartan Day, the Scottish bespoke travel company will partner with SEALL, a performing arts promoter for rural areas across the Isles of Skye and Rassay, to host “one of the most sought-after cèilidh bands in the Highlands” for “Watch With Whisky.”

Cèilidh, in its simplest Gaelic, means a social event; during this live two-hour performance by the Glenfinnan Cèilidh Band, it means Scottish folk music, West Coast dancing, and (definitely) whisky tasting led by Aeneas O’Hara. Each song (!) will be paired with a single malt whisky, shipped to you beforehand, and O’Hara will be the master of ceremonies, answering your questions and walking you through the five whiskies. Tickets for the event (Saturday, April 3, at 4 p.m. ET) are on sale now through March 20 at watchwithwhisky.com.

>> Next: The Joys of a Virtual Whiskey Tasting

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