With St. Patrick’s day right around the corner, I’m already planning where I’m going to celebrate. I’m sure I’m not alone. The day is marked as the 4th most popular drinking day in the year and Boston was rated the best place to celebrate St. Patrick’s day in the country!
Boston boasts the most concentrated Irish population for a city — a whopping 20.4%! We’re deemed to have the most St. Patrick’s Day traditions, including our annual St. Patty’s Day parade, which marches down the main strip of South Boston (Southie, for us locals). We also have a large number of Irish pubs and restaurants that we easily fill to max capacity with a sea of green. Not only is this a day for drinking, but many bars also have big plans for St. Patrick’s Day, such as live Irish bands, bar crawls, green beers, and contests.
St. Patrick’s Day is a huge day for bars, with over 37 million Americans planning to celebrate at a bar or restaurant. Beer sales are estimated to reach over $255 million this year!
Wondering where Bostonians are headed this Thursday? With our recent warmer weather, the Whiskey Priest, a popular Irish pub on the ocean, is sure to be a hot spot. Located in the Seaport, the bar features old Irish favorites, an extensive selection of new world pub dining, 32 beers on draught, and 138 whiskeys. Plus, it fits 360 people and has a water-facing roof deck!
With St. Patrick’s Day a few days away, I sat down with Patrick Dolan, one of Whiskey Priest’s bar managers. Here’s what he had to say about his time at the Whiskey Priest and what it’s like to run an Irish pub in the most Irish city in America.
What brought you to the beverage industry?
“Being from Ireland, it was a natural first step into the working world. I started working the bar when I was 16 at an old style country pub. Lots of fussy old men and their pints of Guinnesses. They were so fussy, when I started they wouldn’t let me pour them a pint!”
How long have you lived in Boston for?
“I was actually born here. I lived in Revere until I was four, and then my family moved back to Ireland. I recently returned to Boston three years ago from County Cork. The owner of Whiskey Priest, John Cronin, has a place called Soho Bar and Restaurant, and I worked the bar there for three years. I realized I wanted a change, and I wanted to get back to my roots, so I got on a plane to Boston. Once I got here, I got John’s phone number and got in contact with him. He set me up at the Whiskey Priest as a bar manager, and I’ve been here ever since.”
How does being Irish translate into your day-to-day here?
“I like to think I bring a bit of Irish flair, which is kind of tough because there are so many generic Irish places around these days. We actually decided we’re going to change up the menu and bring back some traditional Irish food. We sort of shifted to more Americanized pub food, like chicken tenders and burgers. A lot of our menu simply has Irish placeholders now like Irish Cheese Fries or Gaelic Sliders. We recently found an old copy of the menu that was really traditional with dishes like pig’s feet. That’s a little extreme, so we’re going to try to find a happy medium.”
What’s your favorite Irish dish?
“I love a good Irish breakfast with black and white pudding and some beans. People come in here sometimes looking for it, but we don’t serve breakfast. My favorite Irish dish we serve here right now is the Shepherd’s Pie.”
What’s your favorite part about this city?
“I love the music scene here. Right now, I’m really into jazz music. I love places like the Beehive. Also, Wally’s Cafe is hands down the greatest place I’ve ever been in my life.
What’s your favorite drink to make?
“Manhattans right now. I’ve revamped our whiskey list and learned a lot about whiskeys in the process. We’re actually doing a barrel aged manhattan right now.” (Side note: I tried one and it was delicious)
What’s your favorite drink?
“Aviation, I could be cliche and do a Jameson and Ginger but…”
Tell me your funniest bar story.
“So this happened before I had the bright idea to get stoppers for the bay windows. The first summer I worked here, a guy took a running start down the hallway and launched himself out the window into the water in the middle of a crazy Saturday night. We all had to run around to the docks and we ended up pulling him out the water. We told him the cops were on their way. He said his friends had dared him $500, and that he was a teacher and we shouldn’t ruin his life. We just said “No one pushed you out the window. Guess you have to use your $500 for bail money.”
What’s your favorite thing about working here?
“I love the team we have. We’re a big happy family here. I think that’s important for a bar that gets as busy as we do. I don’t think we’d be able to handle it as well as we do if we weren’t so close.”
What is St. Patrick’s day like here?
“That’s an interesting question. I want to just say it’s a free for all. I don’t know, I think everyone just embraces their Irishness that day. People who would never drink a pint of Guinness or an Irish Car Bomb in their life will have 4 or 5. It’s funny to watch the effect it has on people. This year should be different, because this is the first year we’re staying open late on Sunday after the parade. It will be interesting to say the least.”
Do you have any specials for St. Patrick’s day?
“We’re expecting a lot of people this year. We’re having 100.7 WZLX and Chuck Nowlin come from 5–7pm to DJ and broadcast live. They’ll be giving out radio prizes like CBS golf cards, gift certificates to the High Octane Harley, and an overnight stay at Foxwoods Resort Casino. After that, we’ll have another live DJ come in. We’re also going to have a special food menu that features some traditional Irish cuisine like corned beef sliders, corned beef dinner, and Shepherd’s Pie. Plus, we’ll obviously have plenty of Guinness.”
What’s your thought on green beer?
“I think it’s just too much. It’s outdated. Green food coloring in your beer? Who wants that?”
How does St. Patrick’s Day in Boston compare to other places you’ve celebrated?
“Since I started working at the industry, I’ve always been behind the bar, because it’s just a big celebration that needs staffing. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is similar to here. People just go to a parade and drink all day. Honestly I think America does it bigger than Ireland. Parades are bigger and more extravagant.”
You have a lot of whiskeys, which one is your favorite?
“That’s a very tough question, we have 138. I think my favorite is Michter’s Rye Whiskey. It’s the new one on the menu, and it’s absolutely delicious.”
Do you read any industry blogs?
“I subscribe to Liquor.com, and I read those emails when they come in. I should really subscribe to BevSpot’s blog, I’m going to right after this interview. I also see things my friends post on Facebook. I have bartending friends from around the world, who post interesting articles. For instance I found out that pop-up cocktail bars are a big thing back home now apparently.”
Do you have any advice for people aspiring to be bartenders or bar managers?
“You really need to have a passion for what you’re doing. You need to concentrate on giving the best that you can and knowing that whatever happens on a crazy Saturday night isn’t personal. People get aggravated, and you need to keep cool, keep calm, keep your head down, and keep working. Also, just have fun! If people see you having a good time, they’re going to have a good time too. I would dance behind the bar back home a lot. When people were freaking out, I’d be the person dancing around not letting the stress get to me.”
Any suggestions for looking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day here in Boston?
“The Whiskey Priest, of course! The Guinness will be flowing and it’ll be a great time.”
As you can see, The Whiskey Priest is definitely the place to be to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. If you don’t have to work the bar yourself, head on over, say hi to Patrick and grab a Guinness!