It’s Burns Night on Wednesday 25 January, so we’re making a cocktail named after the bard himself using a blended Scotch that was specifically designed for the occasion. It’s the Bobby Burns!

Sadly, Robert Burns never got to try the cocktail named after him. He died in 1796, before the word ‘cocktail’ was even coined. According to Simon Difford, the first mention of the Bobby Burns cocktail is in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. It’s a variation on the Rob Roy, a cocktail named after Scotland’s second most famous writer, Irvine Welsh. No, sorry Walter Scott. The Rob Roy, a Manhattan made with Scotch in place of bourbon or rye, was named after a musical version of Scott’s novel that ran in late 19th century New York.

Craddock’s Bobby Burns calls for half Scotch whisky and half Italian vermouth with three dashes of Benedictine. Very nice it is too, but also very sweet and rather overpowers the whisky. It’s much better made with two parts whisky to one-part vermouth. Other recipes call for different additions: some people use absinthe or absinthe-substitute ie. pastis; David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks recommends using Drambuie which has the benefit of making an already very Scottish drink even more Scottish. 

The Burns Night Blend

The perfect whisky to make a Bobby Burns with

The perfect whisky

Now which Scotch whisky should you use? In the past, we’ve leaned towards Hankey Bannister, an excellent blend with an unfairly low profile. But this week we’re using the new Burns Night blend because what better way to make a cocktail named after the Bard than with a whisky also inspired by Scotland’s most beloved poet? It contains malt and grain from across the Highlands, Lowland, Speyside, and Islay. We can’t be too specific about the distilleries involved but can reveal that it includes whiskies from Benrinnes, Craigellachie, Tobermory, and more including some ancient grain and old malt much older than it’s eight-year-old age statement. With a thick fudgey sweetness, rich blend of spice, and juicy, bright fruity flavours, it’s a versatile dram that though delicious neat is also a dab hand in a cocktail. A Bobby Burns, perhaps?

How to make a Bobby Burns

Now we’ve found our perfect whisky, back to the Bobby Burns. After some experimentation, I found that just a dash of pastis made it spicy without overpowering it with aniseed, while if you’re using Drambuie add a little more, a teaspoon full, to give it a herbal sweetness. Both are delicious. The final question is what to garnish it with: a strip of lemon or orange peel would be nice but a maraschino cherry is even better.

So, there we have the Bobby Burns, not a lot to do with the great bard, but a delicious cocktail nonetheless. Here are the ingredients:

50ml Burns Night Blend
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
A dash of Ricard pastis, or more to taste (or a teaspoon of Drambuie)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir well and strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. 

Bobby Burns