Born in England and raised in America, travel has always been a part of the cocktail’s DNA. Due for release August 1, Around the World in 80 Cocktails is a new book that celebrates the drink’s globe-trotting history and details how to make 80 classic libations. In this extract, author Chad Parkhill details the history of the Bobby Burns, a warming whisky cocktail from the rolling hills of Scotland.
Scotch whisky has a reputation for being somewhat ornery in a cocktail. Part of this is due, no doubt, to the great diversity of flavours – if you make, say, a Rob Roy with a peaty Islay malt you’ll end up with a very different drink to one made with a richer, sherry-finished Speyside. Consider too that for dedicated Scotch whisky drinkers, nothing could be more sacrilegious than adulterating their beloved uisge-beatha (water of life) with anything other than a few drops of water or, if you absolutely must, a cube of ice.
Alloway’s great contribution to Scottish literature, 18th-century poet Robert Burns, was himself more than a little ornery. He could turn an elegant English sentence, yet called English “the de’ il’s tongue” and preferred to write his poems in Scots dialect. He harboured Jacobite sympathies for the deposed Stuart royal family (even if pragmatism forced him to moderate their expression), yet became an enthusiastic supporter of the French and American revolutions, and looked forward to a time when workers would not have to “labour to support/A haughty lordling’s pride”. He worked as an exciseman, taxing the nascent Scotch whisky industry, yet satirised excisemen and wrote the famous line that “Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither!” Perhaps it’s more than a little appropriate, then, that the cocktail named after him uses difficult-to-tame Scotch as its base.
The Bobby Burns as we know it is essentially a modified Rob Roy – itself a modified
Manhattan with Scotch whisky in place of rye or bourbon. Just how the Rob Roy should be modified is a matter of some contention – the pre-Prohibition recipe outlined in the 1931 book Old Waldorf Bar Days skews the recipe away from vermouth and adds a dash of absinthe, while Harry Craddock’s version from the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book cleaves to a classic 50/50 Rob Roy base, but axes the orange bitters and dashes Benedictine instead of absinthe. David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks recommends the authentically Scottish Drambuie over French Benedictine – but given the auld alliance between France and Scotland, and the role France played in nurturing Jacobitism, this recipe keeps the Benedictine.
60 ml Scotch whisky
30 ml sweet red vermouth
5 ml Benedictine
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
lemon peel, to garnish
Build ingredients in a mixing glass.
Add ice and stir to chill.
Strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
Around the World in 80 Cocktails is out August 1 through Hardie Grant Books. We have some copies to give away. Enter to win using this online form.