Old ways not the only ways

Don’t be afraid to break with tradition on Burns’ Night

Contemporary takes on traditional food and drink can be a hit in the on-trade, firms said

THERE is no shortage of tradition around Burns’ Night, from adressing the haggis to toasting the lassies, but how many of those rules and rituals are still essential for licensed premises in 2020?

Is the event all about the old, or is there also room for the new?

The opinion of some of Scotland’s drinks suppliers and producers was that it’s a little bit of both.

While certain things will always be synonymous with Burns – haggis, whisky – there’s scope for licensees to be more experimental in how they shape their Burns’ Night offer.

Niall Deveney of Dunns Food and Drinks said licensees can reference the Bard without hosting a supper by introducing themed food and drink ahead of Burns’ Night on January 25.

He pointed to some less traditional produce, such as Scottish pakora or haggis gnocchi, as examples of dishes that are modern but could still potentially fit with Burns.

“Extending the menu across the month could be worthwhile as it allows more time to fully market the offering and tempt people out of their post-Christmas hibernation,” said Deveney.

“Some simple, traditional home cooking is sure to appeal in the colder months of the year.”

In fact, McQueen Gin co-founder, Dale McQueen, advised operators not to “jump on the bandwagon on Burns’ Night”.

Anything Burns-related, whether contemporary or traditional, should have some thought behind it. 

“They need to do something unique to attract customers,” he said.

“Modern twists of classic dishes always prove popular and this presents an opportunity to pair with less traditional Burns drinks.

“By creating something special for customers, not only will they have an affiliation with the brand, they’ll tell their friends and family about it too.”

An emphasis was put on highlighting “all things Scottish”, with a range of Scottish food paired with drinks such as gin and rum, as well as whisky.

Ben Stewart, director of UK sales at Wemyss Malts, said: “Consumers are exploring more and this is a perfect opportunity to try new things with an engaged audience.

“Simple serves with interesting flavours can help bring new users into categories they may not have thought about before.”

There’s scope to innovate even when sticking with the more traditional products.

Teddy Joseph, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, suggested using whisky events to appeal to experienced fans and novices alike.

He said: “Traditional Burns’ Night suppers are always a hit, but why not try something a little different like a cocktail-making class or whisky tasting?

“Cocktail-making classes will appeal to younger drinkers who are more inclined to try whisky around Burns’ Night, whilst traditional tastings will pull in seasoned whisky drinkers.”