The party-season of New Orleans really has no end or beginning. It just goes on. But there is a time when the Catholic calendar comes into play here like nowhere else, not even in the home countries of the honored saints themselves.

Saints Patrick and Joseph share very little in common, except the fact that these Pillars of the Faith have been adopted by a nation and a region as patrons: Ireland and Sicily, respectively, neither one the most stalwart of operating entities in the 21st century. In fact, the opposite is true, but these bastions of Catholicism have provided our community with even more opportunities to celebrate heritage whether our families were actually from either place or not. That’s a very New Orleans concept.

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today, March 17, and then two days later the sons and daughters of Italy have their chance to kick up a little dust for St. Joseph. I know people who participate in both festivities and probably don’t have a drop of either nationality’s blood flowing through their veins. Makes no difference. It’s the thought, and the beverages, that count.

Green beer is not a particular favorite of mine. Okay, I know that the food dye added is harmless, and after a few days of brushing, your teeth will eventually lose their green cast. Until then, could you please chew with your mouth closed and don’t smile at any of my lame attempts at humor? What I really have against green beer is the dye is usually added to some pretty weak beer.

St. Patrick’s Day deserves heavy stout. Of course, you can’t drink all that much of the stuff. It’s like eating an entire loaf of white bread.

What I do enjoy on the snake-chaser’s day is Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. Jameson’s is triple-distilled, which, the claim is made, makes it smoother than other whiskeys. American whiskies are usually distilled once, and Scotch whiskies usually twice.

There is also the blending of malted and unmalted barley and the blending of pot-stilled whiskies and grain whiskies, all contributing the smoothness of the product.

Back in the 1700s Irish whiskies were considered the finest in the world, and in 1780, John Jameson, actually a Scot by birth, established his distillery in Dublin. Pretty gutsy thing for a Scot to do – come to Ireland and compete with the local folk at their own game. But Jameson’s family motto is on every bottle, sine metu, “without fear.”  

Legend has it that Jameson, while delivering a boat load of his whiskey to England, encountered a violent storm and one of his barrels went overboard. Jameson went in and retrieved it. Committed to his product, he was. Almost permanently.

He also had a very South Louisiana trait of nicknaming all of his employees. A cooper, Gorgeous Gus McCann, came by his nickname because John Jameson once saw him stop in front of a window to admire his own reflection. Then there was Ducky Woman Byrne and Fiddler Quinn. Jameson himself became Glorious John. He liked to throw celebrations and parties at the distillery, and the standard toast was, “This is just glorious, John. Glorious.”

Moving along a few days, March 19 is actually the feast day of St. Joseph the Husband of Mary. There is another feast day that is designated to celebrate St. Joseph the Worker, May 1. Interestingly that’s a day adopted by the Communist party to celebrate the Day of the Worker. Surely that atheistic group knew … well, there’s a story for another day.

Anyway, the Italians up and down the boot and into Sicily have a love for Campari, a liqueur created in 1860 in the Piedmonte town of Novara by Gaspare Campari, who infused aromatic plants, herbs, and fruit in alcohol and water. He originally called it Bitter Uso Olanda, but then the name was changed to Rosa Campari in reference to its light red color. And along the way, Gaspare moved the company to the larger neighboring town of Milan, which made product transportation easier.

Bitters, it is suggested, aid in digestion, and so Campari was soon in use before meals, like the mid-day meal, which was quite a change in drinking habits. This eventually became known as an aperitif.

Campari became an important ingredient in Italian and French café society during the Belle Époque, and soon the art world discovered the monetary rewards of incorporating a product package into their work. Campari posters from this era are considered classic styles of the time and remain quite popular even today.

In the 1930s Campari and soda was such a popular drink that the company itself put out the drink in a single package, the Camparisoda. Within our lives, many famous stars became spokespersons for Campari, including David Niven, Humphrey Bogart and beloved Italian actor Nino Manfredi.    

The formula, as it has been for more than 150 years, is a closely guarded secret and still true to the original recipe. Even the number of ingredients is not known outside of a very few trusted personnel in the Campari facility. Gaspare himself created one of the oldest cocktails documented, the Milano-Torino, in homage to the two other main towns of northern Italy. In the early 1900s, in honor of the many Americans who enjoyed the drink, it was renamed the Americano.

Trivia time: In Ian Fleming’s first novel about Agent 007, Casino Royale, James Bond’s first drink order was the Americano, and in From A View To A Kill, Bond again orders the drink but specifies Perrier rather than soda as the mixer.   

Don’t let these two important Feast Days pass without paying appropriate respect for the loyal children of Irish and Italian/Sicilian immigrants who have given so much to our nation and our city. Drink up in their, and maybe your, honor. It’s what they would be doing.

Irish Coffee

2 ½ ounces strong, black coffee
1 ½ ounces Jameson’s Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 ounce fresh whipping cream

Pour first three ingredients into Irish coffee glass or mug. Stir well. Lay whipping cream on top by pouring over back of spoon. (If you wish, lightly add another liqueur, such as Crème de Menthe, on top, or a sprinkling of cinnamon or other powdered garnish.)


Equal parts, 1 ½ ounces Campari and sweet vermouth.
Dash of soda

Pour Campari and sweet vermouth over ice into a “rocks” bar glass. Top with soda. Stir gently. Add orange slice and lemon for garnish.