Spices & Alcohol


There are many different theories about Irish cooking. Many would argue that it stems from traditional farmers and their practices. The houses of the Anglo-Irish gentry often borrowed or replicated some of the more sophisticated aspects of French cuisine, with which the catering staff would be expected to be familiar.

The sons of many of these Anglo-Irish families often travelled to distant countries with the army, and brought back many elaborate and exotic recipes for the family cook to replicate.

Anglo-Irish cookery has a strong emphasis on spices and the use of sweet ingredients in savoury dishes. Saffron, for example, was often used to both colour the food and camouflage rancidity caused by poor methods of refrigeration. It is reported that when Henry II arrived in Ireland in 1171, he brought with him a large amount of spices and cordials.



There is a long tradition of alcohol and alcohol production in Ireland. Irish whiskey is one of the earliest distilled whiskeys in Europe and is believed to date back to the 12th century. When people wish to ‘make something Irish’, they just add in some whiskey.

Poitín is another drink that is synonymous with Ireland and is distilled from malted barley or potatoes. Poitín was predominantly produced illegally in rural areas, as is still the case today. Poitín was often mixed with olive oil and used to relieve sore joints.

Mead is a drink that has long been associated with Ireland also. It is made from fermented honey, water, herbs and spices, and flavoured with additional honey. A vast amount of corn grown in Ireland was turned into ale. Ireland still has a strong association with ale production today.


previousPrevious - Seasonal Foods
Next - Approaches to Food & Cookingnext