Hoist A Glass to Robert Burns

Many writers have cocktails named for them, probably because it’s easier to belly up to the bar than it is to read their work. It’s virtually impossible to consume a daiquiri without being reminded of Hemingway, and the mere mention of Verlaine and Rimbaud conjures up images of absinthe-inspired hallucinations. On the anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth, which is coming on January 25, it’s customary to hoist a dram of Scotch.

Burns is not well known in America outside of universities, which is a shame. The main exception occurs on New Year’s Eve, when we sing one of his best-known creations (Auld Lang Syne). In Scotland, it’s a different story: he’s the bard of the peninsula, practically a national hero, and a seminal literary figure who inspired the Romantic movement further south in England.

The folks at Caorunn Gin feel that you should do something more elaborate than toast a dram of single malt to commemorate Burns Day. In case you’re not familiar with Caorunn, it’s a small batch Scottish gin produced by Simon Buley at Balmenach Distillery in Speyside. To flavor the spirit, Buley uses traditional botanicals (juniper berries, orange and lemon peel, angelica root and cassia bark) with five wild Celtic botanicals foraged within miles of the distillery (Scottish heather, bog myrtle, coul blush apple, dandelion and rowan berry). The result is a gin with a fragrant, appealing nose and a mélange of gentle and integrated flavors in the mid palate—citrus peel, pepper and exotic spices. The texture is remarkably soft and plump, and the finish unfolds in stages, leaving a resonant hint of lemon zest on the palate.

The production process used to make Caorunn is as interesting as the gin itself. It is first triple-distilled to yield a neutral grain spirit. The spirit is then vaporized in the world’s only Copper Berry Chamber, a device dating to the 1920’s that was originally used to extract fusel oils while making perfume. It’s a round horizontal chamber with a copper frame and four horizontally positioned trays. The botanicals are spread over these trays, allowing the spirit vapor to pick up the most diverse array of aroma and flavor. The result is a long, slow distillation that only produces 1,000 gallons per batch.

If all of this is making you thirsty, here’s a cocktail devised by Caorunn in honor of Robert Burns’ birthday. It was inspired by cranachan, a traditional Scottish dessert composed of whipped cream, honey, fresh raspberries and whisky, with toasted oats steeped overnight in a bit of the same whisky.

Cranachan Cocktail

1.25 Caorunn Scottish small batch gin

.5 oz. Calvados

.5 oz. honey syrup

.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

5 raspberries

.75 oz. pasteurized egg white

Soda water

In an iced cocktail shaker, shake the first six ingredients and double strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a large cinnamon stick and dust with cinnamon sugar.

Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); his first novel, Friend of the Devil, is now available from Black Opal Books. For more information, go to amazon.com.

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