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The month of March is upon us and with it comes one of our most popular non-federal holidays – St. Patrick’s Day! The modern version of the holiday differs a fair bit from where its origins begin, but alcohol consumption actually was a part of the holiday from the very get-go.

Celebrated on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Patrick, is considered both a cultural and Christian religious celebration that commemorates the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, in the year 461. The day also celebrates the heritage and culture of Ireland and the Irish. Celebrations typically include parades, festivals, church services, noshing on traditional Irish food and drink, and the widespread wearing of green clothing and sporting shamrocks.

Historically, March 17th falls during the Christian period of Lent. The Lenten season
is a six-week period (40 fasting days and 6 Sundays) that follows the liturgical calendar leading up to Easter and is a time for solemn observance and preparation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Easter Sunday. This year, Lent begins on Wednesday, March 2nd, and ends on Easter Sunday, April 17th.

More traditional and orthodox Christians restrict their diets and abstain from meat, fish, eggs, and fats during the entire Lenten period while others choose to give up something in their lives for the period; usually, this consists of a luxury type item such as chocolate or alcohol, while others choose to better their lives by restricting their television watching or vowing to cook all their meals at home, or they lean-into their faith more during this period by attending church every Sunday or reading their Bible on a daily basis. Still, others might give back during this period and choose to perform small acts of kindness on a daily basis or volunteer in their communities during Lent. Many Christians observe not eating meat on all Fridays during Lent at the very least, with fish being a very popular substitute.

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day was a day where Lenten restrictions were temporarily lifted and people were allowed to eat normally and drink alcohol. This is likely how drinking became associated with the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. One such drinking tradition is known as “drowning (or wetting) the shamrock.” At the end of celebrations for the day, a shamrock was put in the bottom of a pint glass or mug which was then filled with Irish whiskey, beer, or cider. Those present and participating would then make a toast to St. Patrick and tip their alcohol of choice back. The shamrock would either be swallowed with the drink or fished out upon finishing, and then tossed over the shoulder for good luck.

Here in Syracuse, we have a heavy Irish influence stemming from Irish immigrants that settled in the area between 1776 and 1910, with the largest wave coming in the 1840s due to the Potato Famine that occurred in Ireland. Syracuse was a prime area for immigrants looking to find work because of the growing salt industry and completion of the Erie Canal. The Irish immigrants eventually settled into the part of Syracuse that we know as Tipperary Hill. Today we still associate Tipp Hill with being the Irish part of Syracuse. We see the influence of the Irish in Nibsy’s Pub which was established in 1890, Coleman’s Irish Pub, The Blarney Stone, and other businesses, in addition to having the only stoplight in use in the United States that has a green light at the top instead of red – and believe it or not, it’s been this way since the 1920s!

It’s also at Coleman’s where Green Beer Sunday originated in 1964 by the late Peter Coleman. The popular local holiday consists of a very short 2-block parade of a green beer-filled tanker truck accompanied by bagpipes, Irish step-dancers, and other local celebrities. The rest of the afternoon is filled with revelry, music, and good-times-had-by-all in order to kick off the countdown to St. Patrick’s Day.

Syracuse always has plenty of fun activities to participate in for St. Patrick’s Day. This year’s parade theme is “Dance Through Downtown” and celebrates the community coming together to celebrate after a 2-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The 40th Anniversary Parade kicks off at noon on Saturday, March 12th, and will begin with a large conglomerate of Irish step-dancers performing in unison down South Salina Street. In addition, there will be bagpipers, bands, fire trucks, and plenty of other groups participating.

Several Irish businesses, including the aforementioned establishments on Tipp Hill, always have specials and/or special events after the parade and also on the actual St. Patrick’s Day holiday on the 17th. Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub & Restaurant in downtown Syracuse is a personal favorite and offers a cozy retreat with a festive atmosphere and a tasty selection of food and drinks. There is also Shaughnessy’s Irish Pub, Limerick Pub, Guilfoil’s Irish Pub, Mulrooney’s Irish Sports Pub, McAvan’s Pub, and Hoosey’s Dog House to check out in addition.’

What to drink on St. Patrick’s Day? Go for anything Irish – beer, whiskey, cider, or even an Irish coffee. (Another personal favorite!) You can also never go wrong with a Guinness Stout (4.2% ABV, St. James’ Gate, Leinster Ireland). Other beers of choice would be:

  • Killian’s Irish Red (5.4% ABV, Coors Brewing Company, Golden, CO)
  • Sullivan’s Irish Red Ale (5% ABV, Gardens, Leinster Ireland)
  • Smithwick’s Irish Ale (4.5% ABV, St. James’ Gate, Leinster Ireland)
  • Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale (4.3% ABV, St. James’ Gate, Leinster Ireland)
  • Harp Lager (4.5% ABV, St. James’ Gate, Leinster Ireland)
  • Magners Irish Cider (4.5%, Clonmel, Munster Ireland)

Also, be on the lookout for local breweries that might be releasing seasonal Irish varieties of their own – Willow Rock Brewing Company here in Syracuse just released Galway (4.6% ABV), an Irish Red Cream Ale, and will be releasing Eirinn Go Brunch (7.2%), which is their breakfast stout made with oatmeal and local Recess coffee with an addition of Irish cream, on February 26th just in time for March and St. Patrick’s Day.

In whatever way you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, remember to make it a safe one!

“May you always have a clean shirt, a clear conscience, and enough coins in your pocket to buy a pint.”


Kristin Merritt
Just your average craft-brew loving gal slinging your monthly pour of beer education and the low-down on all things beer related in the immediate CNY area and beyond. Along the way I hope to give a few recommendations for your grocery list, events to attend, and local hotspots to hit-up for shenanigans with friends, ideas for date night, or at the very least enlighten you with a bit of random knowledge to use towards trivia night or simply give you and your teammates a suggestion on what to drink at the bar! Cheers!