Saint McPatrick: Scottish Alternatives for March 17th

Saint McPatrick: Scottish Alternatives for March 17th

St. Patrick’s Day, or St. Paddy’s for the hip, is traditionally a religious holiday for those of the Emerald Isle. Celebrations usually involve attending church and praying. Strange, I know!

Another little known fact: Saint Patrick was actually Scottish. It’s true, at least as far as we can tell; the coolest of all the saints was born in Kilpatrick around 387 A.D. It wasn’t until his capture and subsequent slavery that he could became an Irishman, and that was also the time he delved into faith and became the saint whom we celebrate ~1800 years later.

How often do you catch a friend or relative heading to church on March 17th? Unless they’re praying for memory of the Julius Caesar slain two days prior, then they’re usually stuck praying at the porcelain throne after imbibing too much green beer. To be fair, any amount of green beer is too much beer.

St. Paddy’s, at least as we know it, is a day of parades, sloshed citizens, corned beef, and green as far as the eye can see (a violation therein penalized with a vicious pinching). Though these are fine events to look forward to, they forsake Saint Patrick’s Scottish heritage. I tire of having to feign being Irish by donning green and pretending to enjoy the Dropkick Murphys.

I know where my wooden leg is, thanks.

I know where my wooden leg is, thanks.

So, as a Scotsman, it’s my duty to adapt in any way I can. In this case, we’re going to change the food and drink. Here are some substitutions from the Alba instead of your usual Éire fare.

Corned Beef Stovies

What, did you think I was going to say "haggis"?

What, did you think I was going to say “haggis”? via Scotty Brand

I had my first taste of corned beef last year as part of a massive Reuben sandwich. I attribute my stomaching of it to the quantity of alcohol coursing through me and numbing my taste receptacles. I eventually gave it as an offering to the vomit gods–potentially due to said booze–but I knew there had to be a Scottish alternative so I could stop pretending to be an Irishman.

Enter: stovies. This is essentially a Scottish garbage plate combined with Thanksgiving leftovers: grab all the food you can, throw it in a bowl, pick up a fork, and go to town. Common ingredients include:

  • Mince–usually steak or lamb, but goat could be substituted in. Y’know, if you like your food to scream like humans.

  • Potatoes upon potatoes on top of potatoes underneath potatoes genetically spliced with potatoes
  • Onions–a food I’d eat like an apple. Little Ian fact for you.
  • Lard
  • Stock, whether meat or vegetable
  • Water
  • Salt and Pepper

It’s a simple enough broth: you start with the lard and onion, add in the beef to cook for a bit, toss in the rest, and simmer the entire concoction for a half hour or so.

But most bars you’ll crawl to won’t have a sandwich variety akin to corned beef and a reuben. If they offer any sort of customization like Melt, make a Stovies Sandwich yourself using:

  • Whatever bread they offer
  • Onions–grilled or raw
  • Preferably lamb, but ground beef if they have it.
  • Potatoes, or fries if they don’t offer the uncut original.
  • Top it off with some of your favorite veggies.

You cut out the direct use of lard, add in the use of your fingers instead of a fork or spoon, and can enjoy it on the go as you traverse to your next drunken destination. Speaking of all that booze:

Irish Car Bomb Scottish Boilermaker

Technically, this is a Scottish BoilerBEATER, but we'll allow it. Via The Simpsons

Technically, this is a Scottish BoilerBEATER, but we’ll allow it. Via The Simpsons

It’s bad form to order an Irish Car Bomb in Ireland; it’s not because of the combination–delicious to all with taste buds–but due to the name. The proper way to order is by the name Boilermaker, so we’ve combined civility and Scotland, never the twain shall meet ’til now, and made our adapted version.

A normal Irish Car Bomb consists of the following:

  • Irish Stout–customarily Guinness
  • Irish Cream–often Bailey’s, Carolans, or Ryan’s
  • Irish Whiskey–Jameson being the most popular, but Concannon is a viable stand-in.

The bartender fills the pint glass roughly 75% with Guinness and layers the whiskey on top of the cream in a shot glass. This is where your care comes into play; you now drop the shot glass into your Guinness and chug. Make sure you don’t spill as A) it’s seen as shameful to spill the boilermaker, and B) it’s just bad form to waste any of that deliciousness.

Although the Irish Car Bomb was my first alcoholic drink, and its savoriness explains my continued enjoyment of beer and the like, it’s not Scottish enough for our celebration. How about we keep the preparation as is (drop and chug) and just alter the ingredients?

As long as you use a younger scotch whiskey, keeping it a little above 3 years instead of the mid-tier 12 to 15, you should be golden for your Scottish Boilermaker blend.

Does your favorite watering hole lack any Scottish beer or cream? This outcome is likely, but there’s an easy alternative: just sub out the Irish whiskey for some scotch in the cocktail. Hell, if you’re feeling up to it, just order a few fingers of scotch to sip on. I’m not going to keep you from enjoying the wonderful liquid of Guinness, but just make sure you add your preferred Scottish flair to the drink.

You could consider a proper boilermaker to be a fine treat, but what’s the end of a meal or celebration without a proper dessert?

Bread Pudding Cranachan

I'd say something corny here, but now I'm just hungry.

I’d say something corny here, but now I’m just hungry. Via BBC

I’ve had bread pudding. It’s definitely worthwhile, but something about the name makes me wary every time I see it on a menu. Bread pudding and carrot cake are both acceptable desserts with unappealing names. Care to wash them down with a sausage shake?

Instead, we’re going with a treat with a tasty appearance and intriguing name: cranachan, which often contains these parts:

  • Oatmeal
  • Double Cream
  • Raspberries
  • Honey
  • Whiskey

Wait a second–whiskey? As in, “more whiskey”?! Solid and sold.

Another simple recipe, cranachan comes to life by toasting oats before mixing them in with the other ingredients. Much like most of what you’ll intake on St. Paddy’s, cranachan is served in a glass. As long as you have a spoon in hand, you have nothing to worry about. I use the spoon as a qualifier because I imagine many in the “right” state of mind would try to drink anything that’s already in a cup or glass, especially if it actually contains whiskey. Do so at your messy discretion.


And that’s how you properly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the Scottish, at least until St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) garners a similar joviality in America. For now, grab your Great Highland bagpipes instead of the Irish Uillean ones, don a McLeod tartan in place of a Donegal kilt, and tell the Blarney Stone to kiss off; you’re a Scotsman!

If you’re not of Irish or Scottish decent, then go nuts however you want! No judgment as long as you’re enjoying yourself, lads and lasses.


Hug it out.

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