It’s January, it’s cold, do we need any more excuses to toast the Bard of Ayrshire with a warming wee dram?
I’m not a particular fan of haggis, but I’ve always enjoyed a decent drop of Scotch. A lot of people shy away from dark spirits like brandy, rum and whisky, preferring vodka and more recently all the gins out there, but for grown-up, late-night sipping, they really take some beating.
Scotch whisky has a range of styles most apparent in single malt whiskies from individual distilleries around country. These distinctive characters are smoothed out in blended whisky, although Famous Grouse has a smoky peaty quality typical of Islay and other islands. Talisker from Skye is deliciously multi-faceted, but I do also love the more in-your-face Islay malts like Laphroaig and Lagavulin (great with blue cheese as it happens). If you like lapsang suchon tea, you’ll be happy here.
For something a bit lighter and easy-drinking, there’s also the luxuriously packaged Haig Club Single Grain Whisky – as smooth as its David Beckham endorsement would suggest with a creamy vanilla sweetness from ageing in bourbon barrels. It’s pricier, but more versatile for mixing and cocktails. If you don’t want restock your drinks cabinet, pubs are great places to sample different malts – just see what’s behind the bar or inquire with the staff. Local favourite Ye Olde Mitre is even holding a Burns Night Supper on Tuesday 24th “with a piper, haggis, neeps, tatties and a band”.
If straight Scotch is too much (even with a splash of water), it’s at the heart of some classic cocktails. Channel Mad Men with an Old Fashioned (a spoonful of sugar dissolved with Angostura Bitters and a splash of hot water in a short tumbler before adding whisky, ice and a twist of orange) or a Rob Roy (two parts whisky, one part sweet vermouth shaken with bitters and ice, strained into a tumbler and garnished with a twist or a cherry) – like a Manhattan, but made exclusively with Scotch whisky. Other great wintery staples are whisky and ginger ale and Whisky Mac (half whisky half ginger wine like Stones or Crabbies). If you’ve got a nasty cold, look no further.
However, for something entirely different, there’s always the Irn Bru Spritz created by Loch Fyne in Bath: in a large glass muddle 165ml Irn Bru with a couple of ice cubes and a shake of bitters then top with 125ml Prosecco and a slice of lemon. Personally, I’ll be sticking to a simple wee dram.
Finally, to quote the great man in appropriate style,
Here’s, a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be of care, man.
Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye ought, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not ay when sought, man.
Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.