Tales and cocktails: get more than you bargained for at whisky bars and pubs

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Until recently, I’d never really tried Scotch whisky in any form other than a dram of the finest single malt or a blended whisky with a soft drink.

That is until I tried making whisky cocktails at a masterclass. As I found out then, using single malts in cocktails is a relatively new development.

In our recent Whisky Month Q&A, whisky expert Charlie Maclean suggested adding water to your malt for appreciation, to bring out flavours and aromas, but to avoid ice. For pleasure, adding soda, ginger ale or a soft drink to a blend or American bourbon is fine. In the case of Scotch though, it’s a definite no. Or so you would think.

Some of Scotland’s best whisky bars have been experimenting with using single malts in their cocktails and have come up with some exceptional and popular results. It’s a great way for complete novices, who haven’t really liked the taste of whisky in the past, to begin to access Scotland’s complex national drink.


Three whisky bars in Edinburgh; Scotch, WHISKI and Panda & Sons were kind enough to offer us cocktail recipes for you to try at home. If you’d rather leave it to the experts, you can drop by and try the cocktails below or choose one from their extensive menus.

And there’s plenty more whisky pubs and bars across Scotland, all world-renowned for their vibrant ambience. It can often be easy to take your surroundings for granted when you’re enjoying a dram in the company of your friends or loved ones or listening to live traditional or folk music. But you might be surprised when you scratch the surface and uncover the stories behind your favourite watering holes.

The Stein Inn, for instance, is actually the oldest tavern on the Isle of Skye, while the Oak Tree Inn on the shores of Loch Lomond was constructed from local recycled materials on the site of where famed outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor would have kept his livestock.

Sandy Bells may look like a curious and inviting old pub in the centre of Edinburgh, but in the 1960s it was a hotspot for writers and poets as well as the epicentre of a folk music revival, with the likes of Billy Connolly and the Dubliners first cutting their teeth there.

Discover more about the stories behind Scotland’s pubs and bars this Whisky Month.

  • Forres Scotch Martini
  • Created by the mixologists at Scotch, the whisky bar at The Balmoral Hotel, an iconic Edinburgh landmark, this is a special twist on a classic Martini-style drink using single malt whisky.

Ingredients

Servings:

Instructions

  1. Burn rosemary leaves over Martini glass and drop in. Cover with a serviette to retain the smoke and aromas.
  2. Add rest of ingredients to a mixing tin. Stir thoroughly with ice to chill and for dilution and balance.
  3. Remove rosemary from the glass and double strain into the cocktail glass.
  4. Simple orange twist garnish on the rim of the glass.

Recipe notes

Scotch at The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes St, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ
Tel: +44 (0)131 524 7142
www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel/

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  • The Edinburgh Rocks
  • This cocktail recipe was kindly contributed by WHISKI, a specialist whisky bar and restaurant on the Mound in Edinburgh. They've mixed a light, Lowland whisky with a punchy, citrus twist.

Ingredients

Servings:

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a clean mixing glass and stir well until marmalade dissolves.
  2. Shake vigorously with ice and strain into a marmalade jar filled with cubed ice.
  3. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Recipe notes

WHISKI, 119 High St, Edinburgh, EH1 1SG.
Tel: +44 (0)131 556 309
www.whiskibar.co.uk

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  • The Birdcage
  • This is one of the most popular cocktails on the menu at Panda & Sons, a new speakeasy-style bar on Queen Street, Edinburgh. For the full wow factor, drop in to the bar and see how the experts do it.

Ingredients

Servings:

Instructions

  1. Shake all ingredients (except clove and cinnamon) with ice before fine straining into a stemmed cocktail glass.
  2. Put the glass in the cloche then fill the cloche with cinnamon and clove smoke.

Recipe notes

Panda & Sons, 79 Queen St, Edinburgh, EH2 4NF
Tel: +44 (0)131 220 0443
www.pandaandsons.com

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David Walsh

David is a Content Editor at VisitScotland. You'll most likely find him vagabonding around Scotland with a camera in hand; that or a dram of the finest single malt.