Why? Because I know what you're expecting. Any cocktail for this holiday should include either Guinness beer or Irish whiskey, right? Logically, that makes sense. But my whiskey of choice is always bourbon, so I tend to gravitate to cocktails built on that. The good news is that if you want to stay true to the spirit of the holiday, you could substitute Irish whiskey.
Because Irish whiskey is triple distilled, it's smoother and lighter than other varieties, such as Scotch whisky. And that means it mixes well.
So why did I go with bourbon? To me, the major difference between an Irish whiskey like Jameson and a good bourbon is that bourbon has more flavour (think rich round vanilla and brown sugar notes) and complexity (toasted oak, smooth and soft), often with a hint of sweetness. And those flavours mix well in cocktails without being lost to the other ingredients (which I think a lighter whiskey would).
And so I give you the bourbon slush! Never heard of it? Not surprising. It's from Northern Kentucky and I had never heard of it until I was introduced to it by my friend, Kat, who grew up in the region. Just beware: It is a potent cocktail. You will want to drink many of them, but try to show restraint or you will be regretting it in the morning. Or as Kat, says, "It goes down so smoothly that it can sneak up on you!"
This drink is great for parties because it is made in advance and is easily doubled, tripled, or whatever you need. I think it screams, "Bring out the punch bowl!" And, if you feel the need to add a little green for the Irish in you, some fresh mint would be just the thing.
There is no need to splurge on a rare bottle of bourbon — or Irish whiskey — for this. Because you are adding so many ingredients and freezing it, your favourite reasonably priced bottle of brown "water" will do the trick.
KAT'S BOURBON SLUSH
Start to finish: 10 minutes, plus freezing
2 cups strong black tea, hot
2 cups sugar
12-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
6 ounces (half a 12-ounce can) frozen orange juice concentrate
750-millilitre bottle bourbon
5 cups cool water
Ginger ale, to taste
In a freezer-safe pitcher, stir together the tea and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemonade and orange juice concentrates, as well as the bourbon and water, then stir until dissolved. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap, then freeze overnight, or at least 6 hours. The slush is ready when it is firm throughout; it won't freeze solid.
When ready to serve, scoop 1/2 cup of the slush into julep cups or tumblers, then top with ginger ale. Store the slush in the freezer between servings.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."