Today we’re joined by comedian, actor, writer, and now friend of Master of Malt, Aisling Bea to discuss her recent partnership with Jameson, why she loves hot whiskey, and more…
This year Jameson announced the rather intriguing signing of Aisling Bea. The Irish comedian and creator of the BAFTA-winning show This Way Up is fronting the brand’s new global campaign entitled ‘Widen The Circle’, which is based on the idea of expanding your real-life social connections. She has already starred in a TV ad made by Emmy- and Grammy-nominated director Jake Scott, and last week was at Midleton Distillery to do all sorts of fun activities.
One of those was meeting us. We attended a cocktail-making class where we whipped up a serve made to celebrate her birthday, then a group roundtable discussion, followed by a one-to-one interview. Naturally, we wanted to hear all about why she decided to work with the biggest Irish brand around, how her love of whiskey started, and what Paul Rudd thinks of it all. So we asked her. This is what she had to say across the course of the day.
Master of Malt: Why did you want to work with Jameson?
Aisling Bea: “They had my mother locked in a basement and we had 14 seconds to reply. I’m just joking. I’m not. She’s still down there.”
“To be honest, when these things come through I usually say no. I don’t like the idea of attaching myself to a corporation. When you’re a standup you have to be really careful what you give your name because you need to be able to stand by your words, to be able to talk about things or shite on top of things. I curate what I stand by and don’t really take money for things. But with Jameson, I thought: ‘Oh wait now, I drink it all the time and I’m a big whiskey drinker and lover, and it’s an ambitious Irish brand (which I like to sort of think I am), it’s a brand crafted by people who are passionate about it, and it doesn’t clash with any of my morals or anything I talk about on stage. We were talking the other day about how we were just waiting for the right thing to come along. This felt like a really nice fit. And Chris O’Dowd, who’s a friend of mine, just did the Redbreast campaign, so I knew it was a gig where everyone can have a laugh and a bit of craic. I find if something is too reverential I can’t relate. I don’t know if that was anywhere near the question but I feel like I covered a lot.”
MoM: Why did the Widen the Circle campaign speak to you?
AB: “I remember when we were filming bits for Widen The Circle there was one advert we did where there was a lad sat down at the bar on his own. Because I travel the world a lot on my own, there is something about someone including you or adding you to a pot that is a lovely thing. It’s been a really lonely time recently so throwing people into your community is so necessary now. The idea of just bumping into someone naturally was something I missed. A friend of mine said it wasn’t close friends they missed, I’m on a million Zooms with them, I miss the friends I’m not actually sure what their surnames are, the random people you’d meet at the pub who might be on their own and you invite them into your circle.”
MoM: Were you conscious of progressing the perception of whiskey to new audiences when taking this gig?
AB: “I didn’t grow up with any men in my house so I didn’t know there was any supposed difference, I never knew it was a gendered drink in any way. The old idea of who drinks whiskey has changed a lot in the last 15 years and there are definitely a lot of girls on our Zooms drinking whiskey. I’ve always grown up knowing what it meant to be a woman but now I’m actually going ‘God, even the idea of being a woman’, I’ve never actually fit into any of these roles. My friend Bridget Christie used to do a bit where she’d bring out razors that were gendered, as if a razor wasn’t literally an angle at a hair and that we would be like, ‘we need to hold them differently with our little hands’. It’s the same with drinks with the idea of there being a masculine one or a feminine one. The point of inclusivity is not that you’re invited to the party, but welcome to it. Basically, I hope to make women just non-stop drinking all the time.”
MoM: Has this role changed your perception of Jameson?
AB: “Two things have stood out. One, it’s hard to impress Americans with loads of cash, but Paul Rudd was very impressed that I was a brand ambassador for Jameson. It wasn’t my talent that did it. For my birthday Jameson made 50 limited-edition bottles with references to This Way Up and Kildare on the label and a poem about me on the back, which means it’s been quite awkward to give to people as a gift: ‘Just in case see you need some light reading before you go to bed’. But Paul and Jason Sudeikis have one now and they were like ‘oh cool, a limited-edition whiskey’. So I’ve gotten clout where I didn’t think I’d get clout.”
“The other thing is what a small business it is for a big business. Everyone knows each other’s name here and feels involved. Some part of me rejects any set-up that isn’t community orientated. Even something simple like how much they tried to make me feel accommodated, like the cocktail Keiran [Keane, Jameson ambassador] made for my birthday. It’s not like I’m the king of England – who exists – but the small little touches have really been appreciated. It’s made me want to pick it even if I didn’t work with them.”
MoM: What was your own drink epiphany where you first realised you loved whiskey?
AB: “I’m not sure I should talk about my first Jameson experience as my mother would kill me. I guess it was always there, it’s such a staple. It’s a good whiskey, but it’s not got a crazy price point. It’s accessible, it’s not like only certain people drink this. It works really well in cocktails, it doesn’t exclude people or try to be exclusive.”
“It’s funny that certain things can be nostalgic. Kevin O’Gorman put together a taste test and Deirdre O’Carroll was saying that when you’re training your nose you call on certain things that can be nostalgic. One of the examples smelt like butterscotch and I said it smelt like mass. I suppose what my head was doing was: “It’s the oakiness of sitting in a pew, and having to be there for ages thinking ‘oh my god, when is it going to be over?’.”
MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink whiskey?
AB: “I love a Jameson, soda, and ice because I do like the taste of whiskey. One of the ways I got into whiskey was through hot whiskeys. As a performer, for your throat, I’d always have a little drink before going on stage, and it’s one of the few jobs where you can do that and people don’t go, ‘Excuse me?!’. I remember doing a show at the Irish Centre in Camden and watching Irish people getting really annoyed when they weren’t making them right: ‘No, you have to put a spoon in it so it conducts the heat so it doesn’t break the glass’… ‘No, it’s not a toddy’. Sort of Irishsplaining. So a hot whiskey is a winter favourite.”
MoM: Potato waffles or Jameson?
AB: “I’m sorry, potato waffles. I was hoping this wouldn’t come up, but if I get the call from potato waffles I will be out of here in a flash. I’ve been eating them longer than I’ve been drinking Jameson and at some point you have to go with the people you’ve known longer. I know that means there’s people now fielding calls like in the West Wing when someone says something they shouldn’t. I’m sorry.”
The Bumble Bea
Thank you to Aisling for her time, and we’ll wrap up by showing you how to make a Whiskey Sour spin created for her birthday. It was made by Kieran Keane, craft ambassador at Jameson Distillery, Bow Street, Dublin, which basically means he’s been doing all kinds of tours, tastings, and cocktail creations for the brand over the last five years. It’s meant to look like the Irish flag when it’s finished, but even if you don’t get the colour right (spirulina powder is a tricky mistress) it’s still very tasty.
25ml lemon juice
15ml orange and vanilla honey syrup
10ml triple sec
25ml egg whites
1 pinch spirulina powder
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Orange
Start by filling your serving with ice. Pop all of your ingredients in a shaker and we’re doing a two-part shake here, first dry shake with no ice and then a good shake with ice. You need to really give this some welly to get a nice foam top, and I’d recommend using a teaspoon to administer the spirulina powder as it’s very easy to end up with a cocktail that isn’t green at all if you try and pick up a pinch with your fingers. Chuck the ice out of your serving glass and strain from your shaker (Hawthorne strainer is your friend here) into the now cold glass, then garnish with orange oil by pinching some peel over the glass, and rubbing it along the rim and stem. Pop it in and you should have something that represents the Irish flag. Slainte!
To make the infused honey syrup you need one jar of honey, half a jar of water, one orange and some vanilla extract or pods. Pop the first two into a pot and bring to a boil, then add vanilla to taste and the peel from your orange. Pour into a container and allow to infuse for 24 hours. You can use this for all kinds of things and adjust it to your own preferences.