January 25th is Burns Night, also known as Robbie Burns Day, and is a highlight of the Scottish social calendar. This is a time when any Scot worthy of their tartans will gather to celebrate the birthday of their most revered national poet, Robert Burns.
For the unfamiliar, Burns Night follows a scripted order passed down through generations of literature-loving Scots. In general there are plenty of poetry recitals, haggis eating and of course boozy toasts. The evening ends with a giant, chaotic ceilidh, which may or may not include bagpiping.
Now while Single malt whisky is the toast of choice, especially during the ceremonial slicing of the haggis, the evening present a great opportunity to explore other fine beverages that Scotland has to offer.
- 2 oz blended Scotch whisky (Dewer’s works well here)
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 oz honey syrup (see note)
- 3 slices fresh ginger
- 1/4 oz Islay single malt Scotch (such as Laphroaig)
Method: Using a wooden muddler or mixing spoon, muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until it is well mashed. Add the blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey syrup, and fill shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass (you may wish to double-strain through a fine tea strainer to remove the small flecks of ginger), and pour the Islay Scotch over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink.
Note: For the honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and hot water and stir until well mixed. Let cool before using, and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Did you know that Hendrick’s Gin, with its infusion of cucumber, actually hails from Scotland?
- 2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz Sugar Syrup
- 1/2 oz Créme de Mûre
Method: Combine all ingredients in shaker apart from créme de mûre. Shake briskly before straining over crushed ice. Churn, adding more crushed ice if required to make the glass full. Drizzle créme de mûre atop and garnish.
Brewdog Punk IPA
While some of the more small scale Scottish craft beers are nearly impossible to find in Canada, Brewdog has made some significant in roads into the country. I suggest trying out the Punk IPA. Layered with new world hops to create an explosion of tropical fruit and an all-out riot of grapefruit, pineapple and lychee before a spiky bitter finish.
Of course there is a cocktail named after the man himself! Also affectionately known as the Bobbie Burns, this is not for the faint of heart.
- 2 oz. Highland malt scotch
- 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1/2 oz. Bénédictine (or Absinthe if you’re feeling adventurous)
Method: Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice; strain into a glass.