A tradition that is open to change

There is plenty of opportunity to be creative with Burns-themed drinks and events

Whisky cocktails can be a gateway into the category for some, say drinks companies.
Whisky cocktails can be a gateway into the category for some, say drinks companies.

IT’S been part of Scottish culture for more than two hundred years, but how relevant is the traditional Burns Supper in 2022? And to what extent can it add a little life to an otherwise quiet month for the licensed trade?

The answer, according to three whisky producers, is that Burns’ Night is very much what you make of it; whether that’s a traditional supper with neat whisky and addressing the haggis, or a more contemporary take, where the bard is toasted with a cocktail or a range of other Scottish drinks over afternoon tea.

“For many, Burns is still a very traditional date in the calendar, and rightly so,” said David McLauchlan, key account manager at Glen Moray.

“Readings, haggis presentations and drams of whisky are much-loved staples when it comes to paying homage to Scotland’s beloved bard.

“We are, however, seeing an increasing number of alternative Burns events and traditions crop up.

“Many open the door for a variety of drinks from different categories and ways to enjoy them – whether that’s neat serves, creative cocktails, or indulgent uses as a recipe ingredient.”

Jaclyn McKie, marketing manager at Isle of Arran Distillers, said hosting a Burns’ Night tasting “is always a great idea”, and advised incorporating different Scottish spirits.

“A whisky discovery night, or a Scottish spirits discovery night is a great idea to show people how rich and diverse the Scottish drinks scene is,” said McKie.

And even if a venue keeps whisky at the heart of its Burns celebration, that doesn’t have to mean serving the spirit neat, with McKie stressing that there are “multiple ways to drink it on its own or in a longer drink”.

She gave the Arran ‘Burnito’ serve as an example, which mixes the distillery’s 10 year old expression with ginger beer, ice and a squeeze of lime.

The sentiment was echoed by Niel Hendriksz, sales director at Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers, who said whisky “can be enjoyed in so many more ways than just a neat dram in a Glencairn glass and Burns’ Night is the perfect time to demonstrate this”.

One of Morrison’s suggested serves, the Mac-Talla-Groni, is a good example. Essentially a whisky Negroni, the drink contains Morrison’s Mac-Talla single malt along with sweet vermouth and Campari.

There’s scope to be more experimental with the food element of Burns’ Night, too.

The traditional Burns Supper sees haggis served with neeps and tatties, but Hendriksz said there are many other Scottish dishes that can be pressed into action for the occasion – and are just as well suited to pairing with whisky.

“While everyone is familiar with the traditional Burns Supper, there is opportunity to celebrate some more of Scotland’s fantastic produce with a whisky and food pairing platter,” said Hendriksz.

“Whisky is a great match for fish, cheese, meat, desserts and more, so a selection which showcases both delicious produce and a range of whisky styles can provide an engaging visitor experience.

“A whisky afternoon tea could also offer a Scottish twist on a popular classic.”

Whether it’s a traditional Burns Supper or an event with a more modern twist, the bard’s anniversary is said to continue to provide a solid opportunity to introduce new drinkers to Scotland’s national spirit.

“It is a great opportunity to present whisky to people who may not have tried it before,” said McKie, at Isle of Arran Distillers.

“There are so many different taste profiles, there is usually something to suit most palates.”