(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Some are wishing for a white Christmas. But others prefer it to be green.
The owners of the Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub prefer it to be green. Green as in the color of Jameson Irish whiskey bottles. Don’t believe me? If you happen to be in Irondequoit, New York (which is just outside of Rochester) anytime between now and the New Year, go ahead and visit the pub. Outside you’ll see a big green Christmas tree. And it’s made entirely out of Jameson whiskey bottles. Eight hundred of them, as a matter of fact.
The pub’s owner got the idea while on a trip to Ireland. There he saw a chandelier made entirely out of Jameson whiskey bottles and loved it so much that he took a picture and sent it back to his friends at Shamrock Jack’s. Roz Hickey, a longtime employee, also loved what she saw and together they vowed to build a similar fixture outside of the pub. So they began collecting bottles. Two years later, they – well Hickey, actually, as she was the one doing all the hoarding – had amassed enough to make their dreamed of tree. But unfortunately something was missing: Hickey. Out of the blue, and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the former manager and “fixture” at the bar passed away suddenly.
Though devastated, the pub’s owner was undaunted. According to the Irish Post, he “knew that Roz would have wanted to continue on with the project – it was the way she was with everything at the pub, a constant source of inspiration and motivation.” So he moved forward with his Jameson Christmas tree project and enlisted the help of co-workers and a local construction company to “bring Roz’s dream to life.” That’s right, out of all the things there are to dream about, Roz’s dream was to build a Christmas tree out of Jameson whiskey bottles. I wish I knew her.
So the tree was built, using a wooden foundation, the 800 bottles, lights and I’m guessing lots and lots of glue. It took nine hours and judging from photos like this it’s … well … beautiful. It stands a mighty 15ft tall behind a protective railing, and, judging by the hundreds of comments the pub has received on its Facebook page, the tree is a hit. And there’s no question Hickey would have loved it. “She would decorate the pub each holiday season and had started collecting bottles two years ago in hopes of building this tree,” a pub customer told a local radio station. “Today her coworkers made it happen.”
Yes, it’s true that Jameson runs an annual “Whiskey Tree” contest where the company gives away seven “trees” made out of 130 empty Jameson bottles (the contest is closed for this year). But Shamrock Jack’s tree isn’t just some corporate marketing campaign. It’s a testament to ingenuity, dedication, innovation and, of course, whiskey.
It’s also a testament to something else. Even amid a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and wrought economic disaster on so many small businesses, owners like the ones at Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub still know what’s important. It’s about honoring their employees – past and present – in any way they see fit. And I can see no fitter way to honor someone than building a 15ft Christmas tree made entirely out of Jameson whiskey bottles. Cheers.