Keeper’s Heart began as a shared vision between cousins Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy. The two had an idea to create a new style of whiskey that celebrated their Irish American heritage by blending American and Irish whiskeys into a sum greater than their parts. Their Irish + American expertly brings together Irish grain and pot still whiskeys with American rye, culminating in the most awarded new whiskey of 2022, and Irish + Bourbon switches out the rye for bourbon to create an award-winning whiskey with light herbal notes, malty vanilla and rich cocoa flavors.
As a collection of Irish and American distillers, we’re also big fans of Halloween. This shouldn’t be as surprising as you might think. Halloween originated in Ireland as a Gaelic celebration called Samhain. Over the centuries, traditions like dressing up in costumes, Jack-o-lanterns (carved from turnips and potatoes) and even trick or treating all spun off from this solstice festival. When the Potato Famine drove nearly 1 million people to emigrate to the US, they brought their traditions with them.
Today, Halloween is celebrated widely by all ages on both sides of the Atlantic, which means each year, parents are flooded with too much candy to feed to their children in good conscience. Fortunately, we can help those parents find a fun, adult-appropriate way to join in, because it just so happens that certain candies pair uncommonly well with our whiskeys and cocktails. We’ve done the thankless job of tasting many of the most popular candies from both America and Ireland, and we’re proud to present our pairing recommendations to you just in time for Halloween. No need to thank us, this is just one of the many sacrifices that we make for our craft.
One note before we begin: great whiskey deserves good candy. Toss the candy corn and all the other seasonal garbage where it belongs—either in the trash or to very small children who don’t know any better.
IRISH + BOURBON MANHATTAN
After extensive tastings, we agreed that the butter crunch candy bar was a perfect fit. There’s just something about the crunchiness of the filling that makes this an immensely satisfying pairing. The candy bar’s intense sweetness brings out surprising oaky characteristics from the cocktail, with a lingering finish that highlights the flavors of the cherry garnish and bitters. From Ireland, we decided on a milk chocolate bar with two wafers of dry biscuit inside. The malty crunchiness of the wafer and creamy milk chocolate was perhaps one of the best pairings of the night. The biscuit is quite dry, but pleasantly so, and it invites another sip of your Manhattan, followed by another bite of the bar, and so on.
2 oz Keeper’s Heart Irish + Bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
4 dashes Angostura bitters (or other aromatic bitters)
Stir well on ice and strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with a cherry on a pick.
IRISH + AMERICAN HIGHBALL OR HOT TODDY
Is it fair to lump these two classic whiskey drinks together? Probably not: one’s hot, the other’s cold. Highballs sparkle while toddies are still and a bit sweet, but the core flavors are surprisingly similar, and for candy tasting purposes, this is essentially a two for one.
Our American candy of choice was chewy little fruit candies with a crunchy, colorful shell. Both of these lighter drinks are surprisingly well suited towards simpler candies with complementary fruit flavors and a citrus punch to accent the lemon notes of the garnish. This is a clean, fresh pairing that gets away from the heaviness of chocolate, nougat and nuts. For our Irish pick, we skipped the hard candy shells and just went straight to jellies to capture the same effect.
1 pinch salt (optional)
2 oz Keeper’s Heart Irish + American Whiskey
6 oz seltzer
In order given, build drink in glass with ice. Stir once, perfunctorily.
NEO CLASSICAL TODDY INGREDIENTS
A toddy perhaps not unlike what your grandmother would have made for a cold
1 oz Keeper’s Heart Irish + American
1/3 oz lemon juice
1 oz orange liqueur or orange oleo-saccharum
8 oz hot water
1 Irish breakfast tea ball
Warm mug with hot water for at least 20 seconds, then discard water.
Add tea ball, pour hot water over the tea, then add the other ingredients.
IRISH + AMERICAN NEAT
The whiskey is rich and complex enough that minimal lifting is required from the candy. Which is why we’ve chosen tiny chocolates in hard candy shells—there are Irish and American brands that are essentially identical, so this one shouldn’t be too hard to get your hands on.
Honorable mention goes to the dark chocolate covered peppermint bars. It may not be for everyone, but for our tasting panel, this was a surprisingly pleasant pairing. The dark chocolate coated the palate as the mint mingled pleasantly with the whiskey’s flavor notes. On paper, this shouldn’t have worked, but that’s why sometimes you just have to sit down with an obscene amount of international Halloween candy and a couple bottles of whiskey.
IRISH + BOURBON NEAT
For our neat pour of Irish + Bourbon, we chose a peanut butter cup pairing. This is the king of Halloween candy in America, and its blend of salty and sweet perfectly complements the richness of the whiskey. Our Irish selection was a peculiar, flaked chocolate bar. This pairing was simple and straightforward, but the odd texture of the chocolate and the way it melted in your mouth worked remarkably well with the whiskey.