I’m going to get right to it: If you want to do it up right on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, you really should go on a pub crawl. That's the time-honored way to enjoy a good deal of what the clergy in Ireland have been known to refer to as “the devil’s buttermilk.”
The important thing about a pub crawl is the crawl – visiting a number of establishments and not tarrying too long in any one. A real pub crawl in Dublin would begin as early as 2 p.m. and last until six or more establishments have been visited. Ideally, this should be accomplished on foot and in the company of friends, who can look out for each other in the the event that sudden loss of vertical stability should occur.
The crawl establishes a kind of discipline on the proceedings. You are advised to drink the native brew of Ireland, stout, usually Guinness, but there are other brands like Murphy’s; or beer, the most popular in Ireland is Smithwick's ale from Guinness, but other low- carbonation beers are quite acceptable. But for safety, stay with Guinness, it's slow to draw (properly done, it can take five minutes or longer to get the head just right) and you can’t drink it too fast.
As I've done on many a night in Ireland, along the way you might have a whiskey, Bushmills or Tullamore Dew. But these are, as Thomas Jefferson warned, “ardent spirits” and can cause an abrupt deterioration in vertical stability.
A good pub crawl can be undertaken anywhere in the world where liquor is sold. Remember it's not about getting drunk, but rather about good company and holding off inebriation; you parry with the demon drink, not succumb to him.
You may wonder how such indulgence, such frivolity, such selfishness, such pampering of the dark side of self, such willing abandonment of Christian rectitude, such sinning can take place during Lent? Rest easy, both the Anglican Communion (the Church of Ireland) and the Catholic Church give dispensation for drinking on St. Patrick’s Day. Probably, they calculate the sinner will be punished more on March 18 than he can offend the rules of God and man on March 17.
There are few parts of the world in which St. Patrick’s Day is not celebrated. Would you believe the wearing of the green and the flooding of the pubs is prevalent in Argentina?
For nearly 70 years, the pubs of Ireland were closed officially on the great day after over-celebration in the country in the early part of the 20th century. But the Irish started to feel left out of their own festival and overwhelmed by the greatest of all St. Patrick’s celebrations: the convulsion that shakes New York every year in memory of the man who brought Christianity to Ireland in the 4th century, and possibly drove the snakes out of Ireland.
I'm excited to report on the eve of this St. Paddy’s Day, science has wrested pub crawling from the poets and musicians and handed it over to mathematicians and engineers. At a conference in Dublin of largely PhD engineers that I was oh-so-lucky to attend last year, the engineers, having apologized that the timing was truncated and that the boozy perambulation couldn't start after lunch, but had to be delayed until evening, we were issued a pub crawl itinerary with engineering-type specs — and an awesome thing it was!
There were details of when the celebrants and “spiritual advisers” should arrive at each of the 13 pubs, how many drinks they should order at each pub, the precise time they should head to the next pub, and how to watch for danger and slowdown. It even suggested at which pub a sandwich should be eaten, and at which point of danger a taxi should be summoned and the whole project delayed a year.
The engineers laid out a vigorous tour of Dublin — one refueling station after another noted, no substitutions allowed. The engineered-pub crawl has a lot to be said for it; call it “structured imbibing” or “computer-aided drinking.” It even has a default position – home to bed. Cheers! — For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate