Green beer? They laugh at your green beer.
It’s because of these North American twists on St. Patrick’s Day traditions that two Irish recruits, bartender Mark Rossiter and fifth-generation Dubliner David Tunney, have come all the way here to set us straight. They’re in town for the second year in a row as part of a Guinness campaign to school Torontonians in the ways of the old country, visiting a number of pubs around the city to share tips on authentic fare, how to say cheers the Irish way – that’s slainte, for the record – and how to pour a proper pint of the world-famous stout. (Which, by the way, should never be green.)
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What are you doing here in Toronto on St. Patrick’s Day?
David: We’re here to educate you guys on what constitutes a really authentic Irish St. Paddy’s Day. A lot gets mixed up in translation along the way, and we want to make sure it’s authentic. That’s the most important thing. No point in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not doing it right.
What’s your goal at each of the pubs you’re visiting?
Mark: We just go in and have a chat with people, hand out a few T-shirts and a few pints. Just have a bit of craic, to be honest. We’re here to [teach people] about Guinness and how much it ties in to St. Patty’s Day.
David: What St. Paddy’s Day is all about is having a craic with your friends and having conversation. We’re trying to incorporate that wherever we go.
Now you’ll have to explain to us Torontonians what craic [pronounced ‘crack’] means.
David: Crack and ‘the craic’ are very different. It’s basically the fun and atmosphere you can have with your friends. Banter would be the most similar word to it.
What’s your expertise on the subject of Guinness?
Mark: I’m a barman, so I make it my mission to make sure every pint I give to someone is exactly crafted the way it’s supposed to be, and looks like something out of the ads.
David: Mark here has a lot of experience in the bars. I’m not as experienced, but [I had] the opportunity to go to St. James’s Gate where the Guinness is actually brewed. They brought us in and educated us on the history of the perfect pour.
When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, what are we doing wrong over here?David: You’re actually doing a lot right. Last year we were in a few Irish bars around here, and it would actually be very easy to think that you were in Ireland. Apart from when you looked to the corner of the room and there’s a few people with green pints. It’s hugely sacrilegious to have green pints. You’d never ever see one in Ireland, not in a million years.
How does Toronto stack up as a St. Patrick’s Day town, compared to other cities you’ve visited?
David: You guys really do like to put the effort in. That makes us feel really good about ourselves. When you’re thousands of miles away, it’s great to see so much green on St. Paddy’s Day.
Mark: We were in a pub the other day, and I think for the first time outside of Ireland we heard people cheersing with the phrase ‘slainte’ – it’s an Irish word and you never hear it anywhere, it’s always something that has to be explained.
Do you think they knew what the craic is?
Mark: I think they’re getting it.
What is the key to pouring a proper pint of Guinness?
Mark: You start with a clean, dry Guinness glass. You point it at 45 degrees to the tap, you pull back on the lever and let the Guinness flow to about three quarters of the way up the pint, and at that point you leave it to settle for 119 and a half seconds. Then you top it up, and again you leave it settled and let the surge [when the nitrogen bubbles activate to form a creamy head] happen. After that, there’s nothing left but to enjoy it.
David: The hardest part of having a Guinness is waiting for the surge to settle, it really is tempting to drink it before.
Do you ever encounter those amateurs who try to grab their pint too early?
David: Oh, yeah. That’s actually going back to one of the things you guys might not be doing as well as the Irish. There were a few bars here last year that didn’t pour it that way, they just poured it like a regular beer. There was one place that was pouring pitchers of Guinness. That freaked us out a little bit.
Mark: It requires a precise protocol. It’s necessary.
Mr. Tunney and Mr. Rossiter will be visiting six pubs across the city over the weekend. They will be at the Irish Embassy at 49 Yonge St. for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.
This interview has been condensed and edited.