A month ago, Herlihy, the U.S. Brand Ambassador for Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey, set out on a super ambitious and extremely crazy journey to visit all 50 states in 30 days and frequent at least one Irish bar in each state. He was in search of the best ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day throughout America.
Somehow, 45 states into his trip, Herlihy was still alive and still speaking coherently. So we caught up with the Ireland native in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to talk about his adventure, the coolest Irish bars he’s visited and his advice for ringing in an unforgettable St. Patrick’s Day of your own. Also: We got his best hangover tip.
“Hot Springs, Arkansas, has the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world, 98 feet. So you’d think only a few dozen people show up for it, right? No. They get 30,000 people.”
So how are you holding up?
I’m in a perpetual state of exhaustion. But I’m taking my vitamins. And the Irish coffee is keeping me fueled. I’m up to 50 Irish pubs now. So I’ve reached my 50 Irish pub quota for the month.
How has the trip been going, overall?
It’s been very good. I’ve seen so many weird and wonderful places. I was just in New London, Wisconsin. Every year on March 14 they change all the signs to say New Dublin, Wisconsin—all 16 of them. It started as a joke, but now it’s a tradition. I’m heading to Illinois next—Emmit’s Irish Pub in Chicago. That’ll be my 46th state. So I’m reaching the homestretch.
Any rough patches?
The first four nights were brutal because I wasn’t sleeping in beds; I was sleeping on planes. I’ve realized on this trip that beds are wonderful. Do not take for granted being able to sleep horizontally. I started in LA at Tom Bergin’s. They do a really good Irish coffee. I also went to Sonny McLean’s in Santa Monica, which has a nice shepherd’s pie. It’s a Boston bar and it’s apparently where [former crime boss] Whitey Bulger would go to watch his Red Sox for 16 years. Then I went up to the Buena Vista in San Francisco. The Irish coffee was invented in Ireland but it was made famous in America at the Buena Vista.
Quickly, for the uninitiated, what all goes into an Irish coffee?
It’s got the four major food groups: alcohol, sugar, caffeine and fat. So it’s made of cream, sugar, Tullamore D.E.W. Irish Whiskey and coffee. I call it an injection of personality.
Okay back to the tour. What other places on your journey have stood out?
Portland, Oregon has a brilliant Irish pub called Paddy’s. They’ve got the biggest Irish coffee in the world there. It’s 150 gallons! Hot Springs, Arkansas has the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. It’s 98 feet. So you’d think only a few dozen people show up for it, right? No. They get 30,000 people. This year Gary Busey will be the starter and Kevin Bacon is the grand marshal.
You go from that to the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl in Charlotte, North Carolina. They’re expecting 21,000 people this year stopping by 34 bars. It’s been going on for 16 years and it started with 70 people. And I have to mention O’Neill, Nebraska. They have the world’s largest shamrock. It’s painted on their main street. I’ve never seen so much Irish pride anywhere. That was really cool. I loved meeting those people.
I thought it might be tough to find an authentic Irish bar in Hawaii, but nope, no problem there. They’ve got a great one in Honolulu called O’Toole’s. Anchorage, Alaska, has Reilly’s, which has a good Irish coffee. Of course, you’d expect them to specialize in hot drinks. And Patrick’s in Baltimore is the oldest Irish bar in America, started in 1847. That’s a really cool bar, just a neighborhood Irish pub, a real gem.
Do you have a good Irish toast that guys can recite on St. Patrick’s Day? That we can publish?
I like “The Whiskey Prayer,” which goes like this: Here’s to our whiskey, that art aged in barrels, hallowed be thy drink. They will be drunk, I will be drunk, responsibly! At home as in the tavern, give us this day, our favorite spirit, and forgive us our livers, forgiven us our spillages, as we forgive those who spill against us. And save us from hangovers, for thine is the whiskey, the Irish whiskey, the Tullamore D.E.W., forever and ever, bartenders!
Awesome. Speaking of hangovers, do you have a hangover tip?
Don’t stop. Keep going. [Laughs.] And take a one-a-day vitamin. You should actually take it twice a day, ironically.
You were born and raised in Ireland. How does St. Patrick’s Day in America differ from the one in Ireland? I hear it’s actually a bigger deal in America, is that right?
Well, it’s different. In Ireland, it’s a national holiday. The kids are off from school. You start the morning with a traditional Irish breakfast. Then you go to the parade. Then you go to the local pub. No need to say local “Irish” pub because that would be redundant. Between St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas, those are the two biggest days on the calendar in Ireland. But in America, there are bigger parades. Because they just don’t have the population for that in Ireland.
And here’s a fun fact: Until 1961, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland was a holy day and so there was no drinking allowed. The liquor stores and bars were closed. One of the only places you could drink was at the Royal Dublin Dog Show, because “Royal” means English which means they didn’t observe the Irish holiday. But for the rest of the Irish, I’m sure that St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland in 1962 must have been quite a day.
By the way, how are you getting around to all of these states?
At the beginning I was flying. But since then, I have mostly been driving. I did take one train, so I can say I’ve used planes, trains and automobiles.
Well, I want to go next year.
We’ve been discussing that. We may do 50 countries in 30 days next year. We’ll figure it out.
So what have you learned? What’s your biggest takeaway from this journey?
One, America is a massive, massive country. I now know that. Two, Tullamore D.E.W. tastes great in all 50 states. And three, the Irish pub is a really great environment. Everyone is welcome. It’s got such a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere. One night you can go there with a friend, have some good affordable food and discuss business. And the next night, you can come in, sit on a bar stool and empty a bottle of whiskey and stay there all night. It’s good for all occasions.
You can catch up on Tim’s travels via his Twitter feed here. And if you’re in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day, you can find Tim at his final stop on the 50-state tour, the Dead Rabbit in the Financial District.