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Raising our glasses to Irish eyes

EVEN as the global economy retracts, China still accounts for about 25 percent of the 400 million euros (US$512 million) of Irish food and drink sold to Asia. Aubrey Buckingham goes green for a day

As we inch closer to St Patrick's Day, thoughts of sealing deals and beating deadlines are cast far, far away. Instead, the allure of a jolly good time in the company of jolly Irishmen is enough for you to pack the keyboard away and head for a pint.

It is unfortunate that the chaps from the Emerald Isle are often caricatured, victims of an all too-easy desire to stereotype our peers, but when it comes to St Patrick's Day, the immigrant Irish populations can hardly feel closer to their native soil, and are more than willing to share their joy with us.

Their drinking habits have also grown on us, and one need not be Irish to be seen guzzling a pint of Guinness, necking a glass of Jameson or a shot (or two) of Baileys; the Irish car bomb, which tastes every bit as offensive as it sounds, is part of any punter's vernacular, while, in good company, a Nutty Irishman is a superfluous adjective.

The Irish Food Board, known as Bord Bia, recently hosted a dinner to promote the joys of Irish booze. Over a meal of local seafood and Spanish wine in a restaurant operated by a Belgian chef, the case was put forth that Irish drinks are intricately linked with local drinking habits.

"Irish beers and spirits combine a unique blend of heritage, the finest ingredients and innovation," says Breiffini Kennedy, Asia manager of Bord Bia. "These are factors which have played a part in making Guinness the number one stout in the world, Baileys the number one cream liqueur in the world and Jameson the number one Irish whiskey in the world."

According to Kennedy, the success of these brands is down to consumer recognition, and local consumers are also keen to enjoy the taste of such industry leaders. Even as the global economy retracts, China still accounts for about 25 percent of the 400 million euros (US$512 million) of Irish food and drink sold to Asia.

St Patrick's Day is an obvious occasion to enjoy these products, and a number of venues around town are putting on an entire week of festivities to celebrate the Irish national holiday.

O'Malley's, the quintessential Irish pub on Taojiang Road, begins the festivities tomorrow with the Simply Irish Brunch for 100 yuan, and the pub will also serve Jameson's at two for one and host live music from 5pm. Guinness is given the same special on Monday (80 yuan), while on the day itself, Irish Carbombs (a shot of Irish cream dropped in stout; down it before it curdles) are 50 yuan for two, goodie bags will be handed out to patrons and an accordionist and all-Irish band will play from 7pm.

Across the pond at The Irishmans Pub, hangovers after tonight's Irish Ball will definitely be nursed with a traditional Sunday roast beef or chicken served all day from noon and Bloody Marys for just 30 yuan. On Tuesday the bar will host a massive Irish ceili, which is a social event common throughout Celtic countries to get everyone in the right frame of mind for more drinking.

Other bars around town will get in on the act too. On St Patrick's Day, Malone's will offer 35 yuan Irish whisky and 50 yuan Guinness and Kilkenny at both its Tongren and Thumb Plaza outlets, which should get everyone speaking in brogue.

The Big Bamboo will be serving Irish stew on Tuesday and charge happy hour prices (55 yuan) for Guinness. As well, punters stand to walk away with Guinness swag such as caps and T-shirts.

The Bulldog, once known as a British bar, shows its support by offering the Guinness T-shirts for men and caps for ladies, who will also enjoy free drinks till midnight. It is offering its usual two for one on Murphys and Jameson, and a free half pint of Guinness and Kilkenny for each pint purchased.


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