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Whisky Whispers

whisky cocktails seminar drambusters

Whisky Cocktails Made Right – Tales of The Cocktail

Chris Hoban sums up the whisky cocktails seminar at Tales of The Cocktail when it travelled from New Orleans to Edinburgh. 

We are great believers of Scotch in Cocktails. With over 100 distilleries in Scotland, there is so much choice in terms of flavour. I was excited to attend the Drambusters seminar hosted by Georgie Bell from Bacardi, Ryan Chetiyawardana from White Lyan in London, Mike Aikman from Bramble in Edinburgh and Tom Walker of Fresh Kills in New York.

Georgie began the presentation by pointing out that Scotch Whisky is the second biggest spirit category in the world by volume, and biggest by value, yet out of the top 50 Cocktails served in 2015 only three of them were Scotch.

The panel discussed that due to the reverence given to Scotch and 60 years of Scotch marketing insisting ‘drink it neat’, that it was always going to take a bit of time to change people’s attitudes to mixing with Scotch. They felt that you really need to consider the specific, unique flavours of each Scotch, and try and match your other ingredients.

The panel looked at both some classic and modern whisky cocktails. The general feeling was that although they enjoyed some of them (but not a Blood & Sand), that they weren’t specifically tailored to the Scotch Whisky used. For example a Rob Roy (a Scotch Manhattan) isn’t specific to the type of Scotch you need.

On the one hand, this makes it flexible, but on the other, not every Scotch whisky works with vermouth. And which vermouth? Basically although a good drink when made well, if it is not thought out it could be a combination of ingredients that just don’t work.

whisky cocktails at tales of the cocktail edinburgh

Scotch & Soda: Is it the new G&T?

The panel also felt frustrated that many bartenders purely see Scotch as adding smoke to a drink. As they point out, many Scotch whiskies are not smoky, and have other interesting flavours which can be used in cocktails.

On the spirit and mixer topic, they were very keen to push the idea of a highball (a Scotch and Soda). We are huge fans of bringing the Scotch & Soda back. If you don’t like a gin and tonic (many, including myself, don’t), then a Scotch and Soda can be the perfect replacement. A refreshing long drink if made with Bourbon or Sherry casked whisky or a more complex drink if it is smoky.

It left me wondering why it is not embraced at whisky shows. After each whisky festival, people generally go to a bar afterwards for one or two more refreshing drinks. Beers or gin and tonics. Why are they not staying with what they love and having a blend or single malt and soda?

My main takeaways from the presentation were:

  • Make more whisky cocktails and encourage others to do so
  • Think about the bitters and vermouths, and how they compliment the intricacies of your whisky
  • Scotch and Soda is the future

My favourite cocktail during the seminar was developed by Tom Walker. He wanted to show off orange and chocolate notes of the Aberfeldy:

  • 57ml Aberfeldy
  • 12.5 ml Pierre Ferrand Curucao
  • 3 dashes of chocolate bitters
  • Orange Twist

As he said, it complimented the whiskies orange notes. That and most people like Jaffa Cakes, and this cocktail was in essence an alcoholic whisky Jaffa Cake.