Bobby Burns Cocktail

Like an overly anxious 300 pound stripper, Fall this year seems to have fallen abruptly on our lap and we are powerless to do anything about it. While there is normally a slow and smooth transition between seasons in New York, summer this year seemed like a mere placeholder for the season to follow.

But as the old saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And since I'm a proponent of seasonal awareness in matters of personal consumption--in what we drink as well as what we eat--over the next several weeks we'll be raising glasses filled with drinks suitable for the season. Specifically, I'll be sharing with you recipes for cocktails made with Scotch--yes, Scotch, and even single-malt Scotch, perhaps to the chagrin of Scotch purists. Besides, brown spirits are a perfect complement to cooler climes, and it's due time Scotch made its Happy Hour debut.

It is also worth stating that this is a case where the purists are wrong, as Scotch is an ingredient in a good number of classic cocktails, many of which predate Prohibition. In fact, all of the Scotch cocktails I'll be sharing will be classics originating prior to Prohibition--and there's no question folks back then knew how to knock back their liquor (that's probably why they had Prohibition).

For the uninitiated, Scotch is simply whisky from Scotland, and has a flavor profile that is distinct from other whiskies from other parts of the world. Of course it gets more complicated than that, as there are a number of different categories of Scotch, and even within those categories there are subcategories based on the region in Scotland where the Scotch is produced, with each region producing a spirit that is unique and distinct from the next. But instead of getting into the weeds of such a lengthy discussion, you can read all about it here.

This week's Scotch cocktail is the Bobby Burns. In my research I couldn't verify with certainty whether this drink was originally named after the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns or if some other Scotsman was a source of its inspiration. Nevertheless I'm satisfied with giving the poetic Mr. Burns the honors, as he seemed like an all around swell guy.

Bobby Burns Cocktail

Bobby Burns Cocktail
1 1/2 oz Scotch (a blended Scotch like Compass Box Asyla works well in this)
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth (used Dolin Rouge)
2 dashes Drambuie or Benedictine (used Drambuie)
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters (can also use Angostura)
Lemon twist for garnish

Glass: chilled coupe

Tools: bar spoon, mixing glass, and strainer

In a mixing glass filled with ice, place ingredients and stir until cocktail is well-chilled; strain into a chilled cocktail coupe; squeeze lemon twist over drink and place as garnish. When stirring, make sure to do so in a smooth, controlled manner so as to avoid overly aerating the drink.

I think this is a cocktail that even the Scotch purists who oppose its use in cocktails would enjoy, particularly because the ingredients play up and complement the natural flavors and aromas of the Scotch rather than mask them. The vermouth mellows the Scotch a bit while the Drambuie (which is itself a Scotch-based liqueur) adds nice notes of honey and anise. Ingredients like vermouth are in fact common in many classic Scotch cocktails, probably for this very reason.

It's much easier to say goodbye to summer when you have an appropriate repertoire of drinks to turn to in season's change, and next week will feature another classic Scotch cocktail. Cheers, or as they say in the Scottish Isles--sláinte!

*Got a cocktail question? Hit me on twitter @paystyle, email me at payman(at)lifesacocktail(dot)com, or simply drop me a comment below!

Paystyle was born in Tehran and grew up in Los Angeles (aka Tehrangeles) before moving to Brooklyn with his wife and co-pilot Vanessa Bahmani who provides the stunning photography of Pay's cocktail concoctions. Return every Wednesday for his weekly Happy Hour column.
Column: Happy Hour


  • Pay, I'm a huge fan of scotch, altho I know very little about it, and want to learn more.

    Was just watching MAD MEN tonight and craved this.

    Just learned that Johnny Walker is actually a blend, not single, did you know?

    I think for the next Umamiventure, I want to go to a whiskey distillery here in the Bay Area called St. George. I had some at Fette Sau (excellent brown liquor menu) and it blew my mind. From Alameda of all places!!!

    Excellent post, and Vanessa, gorgeous picture!

    kayoko on

  • Thanks K! Yeah JW is not a single, though, as they take from different distilleries, whereas single means from one distilley. The wiki page on Scotch is a worthwhile read for learning more. Also regarding JW, don't let anyone tell you that you JW blue is worth it, b/c it's not. The best JW (and onlyone that's worth its price is JW Black.

    St. George is a nice distillery—they make a pretty good absinthe actually (St. George Absinthe Verte). Wish I could go. Didn't know they make whiskey though.

    As I mentioned in the post, the next month or so will be classic Scotch cocktails. It's a lead up to a pretty special event that I'll post about when it happens!

    Paystyle on

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