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January 20, 2024updated Jan 22, 2024

Whisky Cocktails to Whip Up on Burns Night

Cocktail of the Week: Five Scotch whisky recipes to serve at your Burns supper.

By Kim Ayling

Held every year on January 25th, Burns Night was born as a celebration of renowned Scottish poet Robert – or Rabbie – Burns but has molded into a day dedicated to the many joys of the nation’s culture and identity. 

By no means confined to just Scotland and joyfully marked across the world, Burns Night celebrations typically involve a hearty dinner of haggis and neeps and tatties, as well as other Scottish delicacies such as smoked fish, venison or cranachan (a cream-based dessert). While the traditional Burns Night drink would, of course, be a dram or two of whisky, for something a little different, consider whipping up a Scotch-based cocktail.

To get you in the spirit, we have collated our favorite Scotch whisky cocktails from the nation’s leading brands and distilleries, all perfect for toasting to Rabbie this Burns Night.

[See also: Behind the Scenes: The Distillers’ One of One Whisky Auction]

The Macallan Rob Roy

Pictured above

Widely considered as one of Scotland’s finest whisky brands (and most expensive – a bottle of The Macallan recently sold at auction for a jaw-dropping $2.7m), The Macallan is a must in any discerning whisky drinkers’ collection.

While many would argue that a bottle of The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old, which fetches upwards of $350, should be sipped not mixed into cocktails, a more modern view is that there is no bad way to drink whisky. Neat, with ice, in a cocktail – whatever floats your boat. 

Dating to the late 1800s and supposedly first crafted at the Waldorf Astoria New York, the Rob Roy is about as classic as cocktails get and perfect to stir up on Burns Night. Be sure to chill that glass a few hours before serving for maximum results.

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Ingredients:

– 50ml The Macallan Sherry Oak 18 Years Old

– 15ml sweet vermouth

– 1 dash angostura bitters

– 2 dash orange bitters

– Luxardo cherry

Method:

Add the whisky, vermouth and bitters to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds, single strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

Mortlach 20-Year-Old Old Fashioned

mortlach old fashion cocktail
This recipe calls for Mortlach 20 Year Old – a robust single malt with bold notes of citrus and woody spice / ©Mortlach

Where would a list of whisky cocktails be without an old fashioned? This recipe comes from Mortlach – a Diageo-owned distillery in Dufftown, Speyside. Mortlach has a long and rich history having first been built in 1823 and passing through several hands since, before it was eventually bought by John Walker and Sons – a company which, in turn, became spirits giant Diageo. Nowadays, it forms a key part of a lot of the signature Johnnie Walker blends on top of its own releases.

This recipe calls for Mortlach 20 Year Old – a robust single malt with bold notes of citrus and woody spice that make for a decadent old fashioned cocktail. 

Ingredients:

– Dash of water

– 1 tsp sugar

– 50ml Mortlach 20-year-old

– 2 dashes black cherry bitters

– 1 cherry

– 1 twist of orange

Method:

Add the sugar, bitters, and water to a mixing glass and muddle until the sugar dissolves. Add some ice and the Mortlach 20-year-old, stirring for a few minutes. Strain into a rocks glass over a large block of ice and garnish with a cherry and a twist of orange.

[See also: Diageo Announces The Twelve by Casks of Distinction]

The Smokehead Skull Sour

smokehead whisky sour cocktail for burns night
Smokehead’s Unfiltered is heavy with smoke from the get-go / ©Smokehead

An alternative whisky brand in an industry that, by and large, tends to conform to tradition, Smokehead offers a fresh take on Scotch. As the brand’s name and its Islay home suggest, Smokehead packs a punch when it comes to smokiness. Its bold Smokehead Unfiltered is heavy with it from the get-go, eventually leading into a fiery, peppery heat.

While sipping a peated whisky neat can be overwhelming, stirring it into a cocktail makes it easier to manage. In this sour, the vegan egg white (or just egg white if you prefer) mellows the smoke a touch, while the zing of fresh citrus successfully cuts through for a balanced, more-ish serve.

Ingredients:

– 50ml Smokehead Unfiltered

– 25ml fresh lemon juice

– 3 dashes vegan egg white

– 12.5ml Demerara Syrup

– ruby port to top 

Method:

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. Double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Carefully pour ruby port over the back of a bar spoon to create a layer effect. 

The Glenfiddich Highlander Cocoa

glenfiddich whisky hot chocolate
A grown-up take on everyone’s favorite cold-weather warmer / ©Mortlach

Who said whisky cocktails have to be serious? Not us. Created by Glenfiddich brand ambassador David Allardice, this recipe is a grown-up take on everyone’s favorite cold-weather warmer and mixes Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrell Reserve with hot cocoa.

The whisky’s oaky and subtly spicy notes blend perfectly with hot chocolate’s abundantly decadent character to create a Burns Night cocktail that you will likely find yourself making all winter long.

Ingredients:

– 1 part Glenfiddich 14-Year-Old 

– 4 parts Hot Chocolate (the richer the better)

– Heavy whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings

Method:

Make your favorite hot chocolate to taste. Add hot chocolate to mug/glass then add Glenfiddich and stir before topping with a layer of whipped cream and grated chocolate shavings.

[See also: Talisker Releases Glacial Edge Scotch Aged in Ice-fractured Casks]

The Queen Bee by Aberfeldy Whisky

Aberfeldy whisky cocktail
Whisky’s smoky notes are the perfect accompaniment to honey’s smooth sweetness / ©Aberfeldy Whisky

It turns out, whisky and honey have more in common than you might think – not just that rich golden color, but also the way in which they are made. Like whisky, honey’s signature flavor profile is largely determined by the area, or in this case, hive, in which it is made, with different hives producing unique honeys.

In celebration of this, The Queen Bee by Aberfeldy Whisky marries whisky and honey, with the smoky notes meeting their match in honey’s delicious syrupy-ness. And, even better for this time of year, both whisky and honey famously have healing properties.

Ingredients:

– 1.5 oz Aberfeldy 12

– 0.75 oz lemon juice

– 0.75 oz honey syrup

– Mint leaves

– 1 dash Angostura bitters

– 1 dash orange bitters

– Top with prosecco or sparkling wine

Method: 

Add all ingredients to shaking tin, taking care to give your mint a good slap before adding it in order to release its fragrant oils. Add ice and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a coupe glass and top with Prosecco or sparkling wine. Garnish with a mint sprig and bee pollen. 

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