Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris raises a glass to the Emerald Isle and celebrates St Patrick's Day By Sam Wylie-Harris, Press Association Luck of the Irish Celebrated the world over with music, dancing and feasting, St Patrick's Day (March 17) is a marvellous excuse to imbibe the Irish spirit and dabble in some Gaelic fun.
And with Ireland's patron saint giving his Sunday blessing to the weekend's roister, why not mirror the welcoming manner of the Irish and entertain friends with some scrumptious wine and food?
To tank up a serving of Guinness, a Bacardi cocktail adds a spicy twist to the beloved black stuff.
The latest addition to the Bacardi rum family, Bacardi OakHeart (£18, 70cl, major supermarkets nationwide) has a touch of maple and spice for extra gusto which muscles in on the Guinness barley notes.
Fittingly called a Patrick's Punch, here's the recipe to try at home.
:: Patrick's Punch 50ml Bacardi OakHeart, 75ml Guinness, ginger beer Fill a beer glass halfway with ice. Add the Bacardi OakHeart and Guinness, then top with ginger beer and stir gently.
For beer lovers who like the sound of stout aged in former Irish whiskey barrels, Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn is celebrating its tenth anniversary with the release of Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask (£2.25, 7.4% abv, 33cl,Tesco). A complex beer with flavours of dark chocolate and treacle, as well as vanilla and oak notes, it's a perfect match with meat pasties and pies.
Ireland's rugged coast is famous for its shellfish, and fruits of the sea such as brown crab, mussels and oysters need a light, versatile white which won't overwhelm their mild taste.
Clean as a whistle, Les Dix du Pallet Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine 2011, France (£8.49, www.laithwaites.co.uk) is a very convincing muscadet with refreshing lime and tangy green apple flavours. And thanks to the all-important 'sur lie' on the label - this refers to a wine which has stayed in contact with the yeast after fermentation and lends more flavour to the grape - it's a bottle which showcases a creamy richness.
To chime with a plate of colcannon (mashed potato and cabbage), a traditional favourite at this time of year, a zesty sauvignon blanc always washes down well. Try Freeman's Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012, New Zealand (£5.49, Aldi), which tastes as fresh as a daisy with mouthwatering lime, gooseberry and elderflower framed by green leafy notes and a zippy finish.
Sturdy reds complement simple, tasty nosh. Taste the Difference Navarra Red 2010, Spain (£6.99, Sainsbury's), an oak-aged blend of garnacha, graciano and tempranillo, with warm earthy notes and a lick of cinnamon and spice with cracked pepper, pairs really well with the meat, potatoes and veg of Irish lamb stew.
With Ireland playing Italy in the Six Nations over the St Paddy's Day celebrations, a rustic Italian such as Grifone Primitivo 2011, Puglia, Italy (£7.50, www.jascots.co.uk) will score big with fans who have a hearty appetite.
Made from old-vine zinfandel, also known as primitivo, the soft, deep blackberry fruit, medicinal clovey nose and well-defined tannins will transform a plate of corned beef and cabbage, as well as complementing soda bread and strong hard cheeses.
Alternatively, for an earthy French to pair with grass-fed beef and dumplings, try Mas Belles Eaux Carignan 2010, France (£13.95, www.slurp.co.uk). A savoury red made from old-vine carignan, the plush red fruits, violet nose, layered flavours with a hint of caramel and nicely structured tannins all add up to a polished wine that's a far cry from your everyday carignan from the Languedoc region.
To drink in St Patrick's day with a traditional pour, The Wild Geese takes its name from the Irish residents who've flown the nest since the late 1600s and made a new life for themselves throughout the world.
But you don't need to be of Irish descent to appreciate the silky smooth taste of The Wild Geese Classic Blend (£19.79, 50cl, www.thedrinkshop.com). Aged in single-use white oak bourbon casks, the blend goes through a double distillation process to achieve its deliciously silky mouthfeel. It's noticeably pale with a pleasant citrusy sweetness, a hint of lemon peel and honeysuckle on the long, warm finish.
For a delightfully sweet ending, revellers will find it hard to resist a drop of Ballycastle Irish Cream Liqueur (£4.15, 70cl, Aldi). A blend of fresh cream, Irish whiskey and fortified wine, this creamy liqueur with a whisper of coffee bean is best enjoyed served over ice, or even ice cream.
Slainte to the Irish!
:: Best buy Taste of the tropics... Famed for its sparkling soft drinks inspired by pretty blooms, Bottlegreen has launched Bottlegreen Acacia Blossom Sparkling Presse (£1.29, 27.5ml, Waitrose). Light, delicate and aromatic, it promises a refreshing floral taste for grown-ups and is designed to accompany food such as seafood and white meat.
:: Liquid news Peated to perfection... Isle of Skye-based Scotch whisky producer Talisker has released its richest, smokiest malt yet, and fans fond of this pungent style will love Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£39.95, 45.8% abv, 70cl, supermarkets nationwide). With a fruity, peppery, spicy character and a smoky, nutty long finish, a splash of water will open up the aromas and heighten the pleasure.