Just Like Home: Ireland and the art of identifying a good whiskey

Just Like Home: The Irish and the art of drinking
The Irish are known for their great beer — and you better bet they are proud of it, but that's not all they're good at. In this episode of Just Like Home, Global's Rachel Lau finds out what being Irish in Canada really means.

The Irish are known for their drinking — and you had better bet that they are proud of it.

“Cheers!” exclaim the Green brothers, clinking their whiskey glasses together with Ian O’Shaughnessy, the owner of Le Trèfle Verdun (4718 Wellington St.).

It’s 11 a.m. on a Wednesday — a little early to be drinking hard liquor, but it’s not their fault this episode of Just Like Home is being filmed in the morning.

“What you’re supposed to do is actually give it a swirl, have a smell and then take a sip,” Luke explains.

“The aromatic-ness from the nose, the actual taste itself, it gives you a better feel for it and once you get a palette for this stuff, there’s nothing better in the world, honestly.”

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Luke and Aaron Green take a sip of whiskey.
Luke and Aaron Green take a sip of whiskey. Max Kalinowicz/Global News

Luke and Aaron immigrated to Canada 22 years ago from County Down, North Ireland — they were five and seven years old.

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“There was a sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland and my parents just decided in 1996 that they would immigrate to Canada and give us a chance for a better life,” said Aaron, noting that their childhood memories are of their family farm beside the Irish Sea.

“I’m glad that they did, but we still have very strong ties with Ireland. We visit every two years.”

The brothers first moved to Calgary, Alta., before relocating to Montreal.

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Though their accents are very Canadian, they do slip into a bit of an Irish twang every now and then.

“The weirdest part is, and I swear to God it’s involuntary, every time I go to Ireland it’s like T-16 hours and then all of a sudden it’s like, I’m right back to being a kid again,” Luke said.

“My parents and my grandparents, especially, hate it because they love our Canadian accents. They’re proud of it in the family. We’ve got a nice Canadian accent, but the second I hear another Irish person talking, it comes straight back.”

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“I’ve always said it’s contagious,” Aaron agrees.

“It really is,” Luke confirms.

“The people are the best part about Ireland. I mean, almost every culture will say that, but once you actually travel there and you start to talk to them, they are absolutely the most hilarious people. They’ve all got the funniest things, the funniest stories.”

“They like to have fun. We call it a craic,” says Aaron, using a Gaelic word.

“A craic. A good crack,” responds Luke.

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Aaron explains that Irish pub culture has been around for a thousand years — and once you’ve found your favourite place to go, it doesn’t matter what the name is, it’s simply referred to as “the local.”

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“When you go to a pub, it’s more like going to sit with your family,” says Chef Sébastien Goyette, as he prepares the ingredients for a traditional breakfast — two eggs, bacon, ham, mushrooms and potatoes.

Goyette, who is Irish, French-Canadian and Indigenous, learned his cooking skills from his grandmother.

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#JustLikeHome: Lesley Chesterman talks food, nostalgia

“It’s your extended family that’s there and that’s what you have to think about. It’s a place to relax and enjoy good food and everything’s alright when you come in,” he says.

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“We’re known for our drink and for our good food. People forget the good food from Ireland.”

That is one of the ways the brothers keep in touch with their roots.

Chef Sébastien Goyette at work in the kitchen of Le Trèfle Verdun.
Chef Sébastien Goyette at work in the kitchen of Le Trèfle Verdun. Max Kalinowicz/Global News

“Any event through the year, whether it’s Easter or Christmas, we have all these traditional dishes with us and it reminds us of home,” Aaron says.

“Specifically, our Nanny and Pa, that’s our grandparents on our mum’s side of the family, I can remember making Irish stew with her with ingredients from her garden, getting those carrots and potatoes and it brings me right back.”

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There is one thing that definitely has to be on the table.

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“No table for Ireland would be complete without some French fries — or chips,” says Luke.

“I feel that Irish food is really the ultimate comfort food when it’s -25 C outside and you’ve had a rough day, you have a nice bowl of Irish stew at home or at an Irish pub like this here and it really hits the spot,” Aaron muses.

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“Yeah, nutritious, warm, soothing, you know it’s all those comforting little factors that you can get,” Luke says.

The brothers feel right at home among the Irish in Montreal — after all, they have one day specifically dedicated to them.

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“[Montreal has] the oldest Saint Patrick’s Day parade in North America and you’ll find us there every year,” Aaron affirms.
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“Ireland’s biggest exports are Guinness and people and you can find Irish people everywhere, honestly,” Luke adds.

Just Like Home is a series that discovers the restaurants and places Montrealers from all walks of life go to have a little, nostalgic taste of their home countries.