Get an early start on St. Patrick’s Day celebrations


A "whiskey duel" of 21-year-old Bushmills single-malt Irish whiskey and 18-year-old Jameson single-malt Irish Whiskey in the upstairs Whiskey Room at Ri Ra Irish Pub in Georgetown. (Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Monday this year, a problem for those of us who can’t take off to go pub-hopping and are also expected to come in bright and early Tuesday after a night of revelry.

The solution: Celebrate over the weekend, which will give you plenty of time to rest and recover.

Here are three ways you can get a jump on St. Patrick’s Day. And if you’re lucky enough to have a day off, we have the full rundown of the region’s pub events on goingoutguide.com.

Drink Irish Whiskey


The Celtic band Scythian performs March 14-15 at Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda and every Thursday in March at Fado Irish Pub in Chinatown. (Lumen de Lumine Photography)

Having a drink at Ri Ra Irish Pub in Georgetown is a bit like hanging out on a movie set. Everything in the M Street pub, which replaced Mie N Yu in January, came from Ireland: The etched glass mirrors are from Dublin and the statue of St. Patrick, which presides over the taps from an alcove behind the bar, survived a fire in Cork in the 1930s. There’s a decent beer selection, stretching from the ubiquitous Guinness/Smithwick’s/Kilkenny trio to include Stillwater and Lagunitas. But the real reason to visit is the upstairs Whiskey Room, especially if your knowledge of Irish whiskey is limited to dropping shots of Jameson into a glass of Guinness.

The vibe is more pubby and masculine than downstairs, because of a black pressed-tin ceiling, lots of dark wood, large mirrors and a soft glow from lights under shelves of whiskey bottles. The thick binder on the bar is the whisk(e)y menu, which organizes its collection by country and distillery, and is filled with history and tasting notes. The Irish section is worth delving into, from the well-known (six Jamesons of varying ages) to the obscure (two offerings from Walsh Whiskey Distillery, including the peppery, bourbon-esque Irishman blend). You can drink well for $8 to $12 per glass; big spenders can try the Knappogue Castle Vintage 1951 for $295 a pour. The house “whiskey sommelier” is available to offer suggestions and tastes Thursday through Saturday nights.

The first page of the menu is devoted to 10 “Whiskey Duels,” which sounds gimmicky, but is about education more than competition. Two whiskeys are served side-by-side on a special wooden tray; for instance, you can try an Irish peated single malt paired with a Scottish peated single malt, or an 18-year-old Scotch against an 18-year-old Japanese whiskey. (Who doesn’t love learning with two glasses of whiskey in front of them?) Strangely, there’s only one all-Irish matchup, which pits a 21-year-old Bushmills single malt against an 18-year-old Jameson single malt. It’s $25, but that’s worth it to try an ounce of each of these complex beasts.

3125 M St. NW. 202-751-2112. www.rira.com.

Dance all night

Ten years ago, a group of friends began playing Celtic music at Flanagan’s Irish Pub in Bethesda and Fado Irish Pub in Chinatown. Scythian quickly established that it wasn’t like any other Irish group in Washington: Fiddler Josef Crosby and brothers Danylo and Alexander Fedoryka (piano and violin, respectively) were classically trained musicians, infusing covers of “Come Out Ye Black and Tans,” the Pogues’ “Tuesday Morning” and Charlie Daniels’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” with extra zip and technical wizardry.

What really set Scythian apart from its peers, however, was its infectious, interactive shows. Tambourines were passed out to people in the crowd who wanted to play along. There were mid-set drinking games, dance contests and audience- participation versions of such hokey chestnuts as “The Wild Rover.” The pubs regularly hit capacity and stayed full to the end; everyone hoisted pint glasses and sang at the top of their voices.

Scythian eventually went on to bigger things, including headlining the 9:30 Club, performing at FloydFest and touring Irish festivals across the country. But to mark its 10th anniversary, the band has returned to Washington for a month of shows. You can hear the quintet at Fado every Thursday in March, and at Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle in Bethesda — the successor to the original Flanagan’s, which closed in 2005 — this Friday and Saturday.

Fado: Thursdays at 9 p.m. 808 Seventh St. NW. 202-789-0066.
www.fadoirishpub.com
. $10.

Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle:
Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.
4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda. 301-951-0115. www.flanagansharpandfiddle.com. $15.

watch a parade, then go party

The 43rd annual St. Patrick’s Parade takes over Constitution Avenue between Seventh and 17th streets NW on Sunday, beginning at noon. Participants include marching bands, pipers, dance troupes, vintage firetrucks and floats sponsored by local Irish organizations and pubs. The Rev. Monsignor Salvatore A. Criscuolo, the chaplain of the District’s police and firefighters, serves as grand marshal. There’s no charge to watch from spots along the route, although you can pay $15 to sit in a grandstand between 15th and 16th streets.

After the parade, the celebration continues at local pubs. The Dubliner, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has a full lineup of singers, including John McGrath, Morris Minor and the duo of Jimmy Raferty and Paddy Halligan, who are taking the stage at 2 p.m. Irish singer-songwriter Danny Burns performs at Fado from noon to 4 p.m. Ri Ra offers the local 19th Street Band at 1 p.m. and Irish rockers Gypsy Rovers at 4 p.m.

St. Patrick’s Parade: Sunday from noon to 2:30 p.m. Constitution Avenue
between Seventh and 17th streets NW.
www.dcstpatsparade.com
. Free; grandstand tickets $15.

The Dubliner: 4 F St. NW. 202-737-3773. www.dublinerdc.com. Free.

Fado: 808 Seventh St. NW. 202-789-0066. www.fadoirishpub.com. Free.

Ri Ra: 3125 M St. NW. 202-751-2112. www.rira.com. Free.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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