Hey, Girl!

In countries with large populations of Irish decent, it's popular for people to name their daughters Colleen. However, it's rare to meet a girl in Ireland named Colleen, as this Gaelic word means simply, "girl."

Taking a (Moon) shine to Potcheen

“Keep your eyes well peeled today, the excise men are on their way, searching for the mountain tay, in the hills of Connemara . . .”

Potcheen is a potent form of Irish moonshine, traditionally brewed from grain or potatoes. It was banned by the English crown in 1661, in an act that effectively criminalized thousands of distillers overnight. That didn’t stop people from making the stuff, however, and after 336 years on the wrong side of the law, potcheen was finally made legal again in 1997.

One 17th-century writer said of potcheen that “it enlighteneth ye heart, casts off melancholy, keeps back old age and breaketh ye wind.” Its usefulness didn’t stop there, evidently, as history records the drink being used as everything from a bath tonic to a substitute for dynamite.

Potcheen has long been used in fiction as a symbol of Irish nationalism, its contraband status rich with rebellious overtones. The traditional folk song “The Hills of Connemara” describes potcheen being secretly distributed under the noses of excise men.

In 2008, the European Union awarded the drink “Geographical Indicative” protection. This means that only the genuine Irish product is allowed to carry the name (the same status enjoyed by champagne and Parma ham).

You’ll find potcheen for sale in a few souvenir stores. Like most liquors it can be drunk straight, on the rocks, or with a mixer, but at anything from 80 to a massive 180 proof, potcheen packs a mean punch, so enjoy . . . cautiously.

Irish Troopers

During the years of America's western expansion, about one-third of the U.S. Cavalry was comprised of soldiers born in Ireland. On June 25, 1876, almost 130 Irishmen rode with Custer's 7th Cavalry into a Sioux camp along the Little Big Horn River.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.