Buzz: Aren't all whiskeys strong? Dad always said they'd grow hair on my chest.
Marnie: All whiskeys are high in alcohol content. Most clock in around 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume. I meant that Irish whiskey is mild in flavor. Most don't have the smoky, peaty taste of scotch. While Irish whiskeys have a mild caramelized quality from aging in oak barrels, they don't have the "charred" character we associate with bourbon.
Buzz: But isn't stronger flavor better?
Marnie: Not really. Vodka is the most popular spirit by a mile and it's flavor-free. One reason Irish whiskeys are mild is that they have traditionally been a working man's drink - designed more for shots than for sipping from snifters. A soft taste helps them go down easy.
Buzz: I never go down easy after doing shots on St. Patty's day. Last year the bruises lasted for weeks.
Marnie: I don't recommend overindulgence, Buzz. After one or two to set the mood, stick to beer. The Day-Glo-green kind is a little scary, though. If you want to get your Irish on with something green, order a pickleback.
Buzz: A pickle-what? Sounds like some kind of torture device.
Marnie: A "pickleback" is a chaser of dill-pickle brine, typically served with shots of Irish whiskey. You'd be amazed at how delicious the combination is - the salty vinegar is perfect for soothing the whiskey's burn.
Buzz: Looks like I'll be getting pickled again this year.
Marnie Old is Philadelphia's highest-profile sommelier. Her latest book, Wine Secrets, is a collection of wine advice shared by top wine professionals. Check out her blog at sauceblog.marnieold.com. Buzz's musings are interpreted by Daily News City Editor Gar Joseph.