A quick primer on poitin (pronounced puh-tcheen): It’s essentially Irish moonshine. It was illegal for hundreds of years, finally becoming legal in 1997. When Ireland was under British rule, the Crown decided it was going to tax all stills. But most under-the-radar, illicit pot stills (poitin essentially means “little pot”) in rural areas were usually beyond the reach of tax collectors. They focused mainly on the big producers in the big cities, as getting around wasn’t so easy in the 18th century. So, small distillers in the country made their spirits with whatever they could get their hands on in their immediate areas. And they typically did so unmolested since they were, more or less, underground (figuratively) operations.
The legal poitin you can get these days is akin to the unaged white whiskey that U.S. craft spirits producers sell while they’re waiting for their actual whiskeys to age. Some have been as high as 120 or 130 proof, with some very harsh vegetal notes. But the folks at Mad March Hare have tinkered with their recipe until they reached a fairly smooth and palatable 80-proof spirit. There’s still that immediate hit of rough-around-the-edges earthiness, but the nose of the malted-barley-based spirit is all grain—not a trace of the sour tomato scents I’ve nosed in other, higher-ABV poitins. I’d even go as far as to call it “spicy”—not unlike an unaged rye, despite the fact that there’s no such grain in the recipe. There’s even a subtle hint of smoke, with a mildly sweet finish. I really enjoy this stuff on the rocks, but it’s equally good in cocktails for which vodka just doesn’t cut it anymore. If you want a bit more pizzazz in your bloody mary, but don’t want to empty half a bottle of hot sauce into it to get there, Mad March Hare will be your new best friend.