Robert Burns was a complex individual. Literature students know him as a forerunner of the Romantic Poetry movement, insurgent Scots recognize him as an early proponent of independence, and the world at large commemorates him on New Year’s Eve by singing “Auld Land Syne.” Regardless of how you view him, you can memorialize the poet on the evening of his birthday, January 25—officially known as Burns Night, and a perfect moment for a warming cocktail.
While you could simply raise a dram of whisky to celebrate the Scottish bard, here are three options involving high-quality spirits. The first is inspired by cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert usually made with oats, cream, whisky and raspberries.
1 1/4 oz. Caorunn Gin
1/2 oz. Calvados
1/2 oz. Honey Syrup
1/2 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz. Pasteurized egg white
Directions: Shake first six ingredients and double strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a large cinnamon stick and dust with cinnamon sugar.
In case you’re unaware, the hot toddy is the definitive miracle cure for everything:
Old Pulteney Salted Honey Hot Toddy
1 3/4 oz. Old Pulteney 12 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky
3/4 oz. Salted Hot Toddy Syrup*
1/2 oz. lemon juice
3 1/2 oz. black breakfast tea
Directions: Add the hot tea to a mug with Old Pulteney, salted hot toddy syrup and lemon juice. Stir and garnish with a floating lemon slice.
Salted Hot Toddy Syrup
3 1/2 oz. honey
2–3 slices ginger
1 lemon peel
Directions: To make the syrup, add the honey to a pot and heat it up. Watch for it to bubble and begin to go dark in color as the sugars caramelize. While the honey is heating up, make a cup of black tea. When the honey is on the dark side, add the tea along with the ginger slices, lemon peel and a tbsp of peppercorns. Simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to marry, then remove from the heat and strain. While cooling, add a pinch of salt to taste.
And here’s a twist on an old fashioned that’s easy to make and easy to drink:
Granty Burn Old Fashioned
2 1/2 oz. Speyburn 10 Year Old
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3 dashes orange bitters
Directions: Add ingredients to a rocks glass with ice and stir well. Garnish with an orange peel.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats. Has America’s greatest chef cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune?