Let’s just start by saying Scotch can be amazing in cocktails.
Sure, there are Scotch purists out there whose blood is slowly boiling at the thought. There are also cocktail enthusiasts who are desperately looking for an easier base spirit to use. And to both these groups, we can only emphasis; Scotch Cocktails are not a waste of good Whisky.
Sure there are times when Scotch should be drunk neat, and yes, any other spirit is often easier to use, but if you don’t explore Scotch Cocktail you are truly missing out.
Scotch is, after all, the “Water Of Life”, getting its name from a derivative of a Latin term, aqua vitae. And it is the fantastic smoky flavour that makes many Scotch cocktails a truly unforgettable drinking experience.
Embrace The Flavour
All through the history of cocktails, there have been Scotch cocktails adding their distinctive peaty, smoky, and malty character to the repertoire. Sure, it’s more common for Whiskey (with an ‘e’) to be used in the shaker or mixing glass, but there are some classics, and some newly minted modern classics, that show what Scotch can truely do.
Even pioneer bartenders such as Jerry Thomas had a cocktail, or two made with Scotch in his Bar-Tender’s Guide (1862). Not that he had a particularly easy time with the spirit, as even he said: “it requires a genius to make whisky punch”.
But thankfully, bartenders around the world have taken on Scotch almost as a challenge, creating cocktails like the Penicillin, the Drunken Uncle & the Campbeltown Cocktail.
These bartenders have shown that Scotch can work as well when mixed, as it can be neat, and for that, we can be eternally grateful. They have proven that if mixed sympathetically, not even a diehard purest can object. And it’s nice to think that even in Scotland itself, there is the odd distiller or blender that perhaps gets a bit of a kick when they try a tantalising cocktail made with their whisky.
Take The Challenge
The important thing is not to let the reputation of Scotch scare you. For those who are beginning to dip their feet in the world of scotch but don’t know where to start, the seven cocktails we have listed here are sure to win you over.
So next time you are making a cocktail, and your hand starts to go past the Scotch, realise that if you don’t stop, it could be a lost opportunity to explore the distinct flavour characteristics that Scotland’s finest can imbue.
If you want to experiment on your own, then knowing that Scotch is choosy about with whom it mixes, is a great place to start. As in life, if you pick the right companions for your scotch, then magic can be made. In terms of non-alcoholic friends, the flavours released by chocolate, cream and nuts always play well. And if you are looking for a more fruity mix, then you can’t go past Lemon, Apple or Orange Juice, or even Bananas, Cherries and Aniseed.
In terms of alcoholic, Vermouth, Sherry Port and Absinthe make excellent consorts, as do most of the herbal liqueurs (such as Chartreuse, Drambuie and Benedictine).
Working With Peated Scotch
Now that might all be fine for blended Scotch, but if you are looking at a peated scotch, things are a little more complicated. A common technique is to pair peated with another spirit, which helps moderate the smoky influence without burying it. The most common combination is a mellow, unpeated whiskey, which might mean a blended Scotch or an Irish or American counterpart.
Another technique is to use peated scotch as a float. The good thing to know here is that even the smallest amount of your more expensive Scotch can imbue the maximum aromatic impact.
So while we embrace your choice to drink your Scotch solo, in a leather chair, by the fire, we also encourage you to mix it up a bit.
Sure, David Embury, who in his book The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks might have describe Whisky as “a grouchy old bachelor that stubbornly insists on maintaining its own independence and is seldom to be found in a marrying mood,” but as many a wise woman has shown over generations, even a grouchy bachelor can eventually be turned …