LOWELL -- Kegs of Guinness are at the ready.
Jameson Irish Whiskey and Baileys Irish Cream are flying off the shelves.
Corned beef will soon be seasoned, trimmed and primed for the big day.
St. Patrick's Day is almost here, and local establishments have big plans for Friday, March 17 -- and the days before and after the holiday.
"It's by far the busiest day of the year for us," said Finbarr Sheehan, co-owner of The Old Court in Lowell. "From the minute we open, it's pretty much nuts in here."
The downtown pub and restaurant will have a regular opening at 11:30 a.m., serving corned beef and cabbage along with items from its regular menu, including shepherd's pie -- piping hot pie made with ground beef, carrots, celery, onions and topped with mashed potatoes and gravy.
The Old Court, at Central and Middle streets, will have entertainment all day long, including live Irish music, step dancers and bagpipes.
"Everyone's always having a good time," said Sheehan, who is from Ireland. "It's a great day and it's cool to see it here, celebrating Irish roots. There's a real sense of pride here."
On Wednesday, March 15, the pub will start selling corned beef and cabbage.
Less than a half-mile away, at Garcia Brogan's on Middlesex Street, the St. Patrick's Day celebration will start early that day -- 8 a.m. The cantina, pub and restaurant will serve an Irish breakfast -- eggs, bangers, rashers, baked beans, black and white pudding, grilled tomato and homemade soda bread.
"There will be people outside here before 8 a.m.," said Ervy Garcia, co-owner of Garcia Brogan's. "We're expecting a big crowd -- people dressed up, our waitstaff dressed up."
Like The Old Court, Garcia Brogan's will have entertainment throughout the day, including Irish music.
The restaurant's special Irish menu will include corned-beef quesadilla (grilled flour tortilla, stuffed with corned beef, swiss cheese and spicy mustard); Brogan bites (fried flour tortilla-wrapped shepherd's pie, red pepper-jalapeno gravy); corned-beef dinner; Guinness beef stew; and more.
"We have a little bit of everything," said Ronnie Brogan, the other co-owner, who is from Ireland.
Meanwhile, down in Billerica at The Emerald Rose, the Irish tavern will feature a five-day celebration for St. Patrick's Day -- from Wednesday, March 15, through Sunday, March 19.
"Five days of corned beef and cabbage and live music," said Gary Oleson, general manager at The Emerald Rose, on Boston Road in Pinehurst. "It'll be very busy the whole week, and with St. Patrick's Day being on a Friday, it will be very, very busy."
Other local establishments that are popular around St. Patrick's Day are Paddy's Ale House in Dracut; The Peddler's Daughter in Nashua, N.H.; and The Irish Cottage in Methuen.
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Pouring the perfect Guinness
At Boston University, you consume a fair share of adult beverages on Commonwealth Avenue.
I thought it'd be as simple as holding the glass at a 45-degree angle, but it's actually a six-step process:
1. You should have an official Guinness glass with the harp logo.
2. Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle.
3. Start pouring, pulling the tap toward you.
4. Pour until the beer reaches the top of the harp logo.
5. Let the beer settle for about two minutes, and then bring your Guinness up to the tap and hold it level.
6. Top it off by pushing the tap away from you, resulting in the perfect head.
Creating a delicious Irish coffee
Some bars go with only whiskey with the coffee, while others add Baileys to make it sweeter.
Regardless of the bar's preference, it's vital to use good whiskey -- with most bars selecting Jameson.
"I've been places where they use a cheap bar whiskey, and you really have to use Jameson," said Gary Oleson, general manager at The Emerald Rose in Billerica. "It all starts with Jameson."
In-house whipped cream is also important, said Finbarr Sheehan, co-owner of The Old Court.
The establishments wouldn't give away the ratio they use for Irish coffee, but some recipes call for one cup of hot coffee, one shot of whiskey, one tablespoon brown sugar, and whipped heavy cream on top. In addition to Baileys, you can also add creme de menthe.
Cooking a scrumptious corned beef
It's a long, long process, the experts at local establishments emphasized.
Garcia Brogan's slow-cooks the beef for 48 hours.
"The slower, the better," said co-owner Ervy Garcia. "The more tender it is, it goes down well."
Because the meat will shrink by at least one-third, people should buy more than they need.
The brine, seasoning and trimming is all key, Finbarr Sheehan said. You need to get a good, quality cut and slice it super-thin, The Old Court co-owner said.
Oleson stressed that it should be trimmed down so it's very lean.