Poteen (or poitin), usually made from potatoes or grain, dates from the 17th century. Meaning ‘little pot’, the spirit’s name refers to the tiny, home-made stills in which it is normally produced. Poteen production was made illegal in 1661, and stayed that way for more than 300 years, although the spirit was still easy to come by in Ireland.
A variety of tests were advised to test the quality of any illicit poteen before consumption. These included setting fire to the spirit to see what colour the flame was (purple was deemed good; red or orange bad), or adding it to milk to see if it caused curdling.
Nowadays, there are a small number of legal poteen brands available on the market, and while it should not be drunk neat due to its high alcoholic strength, the product is beginning to enjoy a reputation as a brilliant spirits base for cocktails. Poteen can also be mixed to good effect with most of the normal mixers associated with vodka.
Typical Character and Style of Poteen
- White Pepper