Every year when St. Patrick's day rolls around, the devoted drinker has two choices. The first is to seek out well crafted spirits that honor Ireland's long heritage of small-batch beverages. Those folks will be enjoying the holiday with a single malt whiskey or perhaps an Irish-inspired ale from one of America's craft breweries. For the rest of the masses, St. Patrick's Day is a time to celebrate not the drinks, but the drinking; the camaraderie found in a shared pint of Guinness, a Jameson on the rocks, or the unfortunately-named Irish Car Bomb.
When it comes to cider, getting an artisanal Irish brand is pretty much out of the question. I could wax poetic about Ireland's budding cider revival and hand-crafted Irish ciders such as Llewellyn's Double L Real Cider, but shipping a bottle of cider half way around the world is expensive, and Irish ciders aren't widely available in the States. Instead, we pretty much have one option in America for a St. Patrick's Day cider: Magners Irish Cider.
Imported by the C&C Group (home of Blackthorn, Gaymers, and a few other British ciders), Magners is sold in Ireland as Bulmers. Since the 1930s, Magners and Bulmers have come from the same cider mill in Clonmel, South Tipperary. Using locally sourced apples from their own orchards and nearby farms, Magners is blended from 17 apple varieties and aged up to two years.
When it comes down to taste, in all honesty, you can do a lot worse than a Magners. While still a far cry from the handcrafter American ciders we have come to love here on The Cider Press, Magners is not as sweet as some of large-scale ciders that are made in the US. There is a defined ciderlike quality as opposed to the more apple juice flavors often found in most larger-volume ciders. But it lacks depth and finishes both musky and watery. There's actual cider in Magners, but there's also sugar, malic acid (for tartness), artificial color, and forced carbonation.
Of course, the lack of subtlety makes Magners easy-drinking, and that's just what we are going for on St. Patrick's Day. The folks at Magners recommend serving their cider cold, poured over a full glass of ice, but I am not going to go all Mayor Bloomberg on my cider any time soon. Chilled is fine. Try serving it black-and-tan style with a Guinness to make a Poor Man's Black Velvet.