Updated: Jul 26
“That’s not how you drink Scotch!”
“Oh yes, it is.”
Many a whisky enthusiast have experienced something like it before; a bartender kindly, but a little too insistently, advocating that to truly get the most from your single malt whisky, it MUST be held in the mouth for this exact number of seconds. Or that muttered remark you overhear, grumbled by a local sat at the end of the bar, after you order an Old Fashioned. Or how about the inevitable comment on social media decrying the ‘blasphemy’ of serving a whisky with anything other than a splash of mineral water, by a user with a grid or gallery of unopened whisky bottles.
Ignore the gatekeeping by would be whisky connoisseurs. The simple fact is, for many a moon now, Scotch whisky has been utilised as the diverse spirit category it is. With a vast array of complex aromas and flavours available from a myriad of leading Scotch whisky bottlings, it can be shaken, stirred, married, or infused then imbibed in a multitude of ways, as shown by these five imaginative drinks served in iconic Edinburgh venues...
1. Popcorn and Jura aperitif
at The Theatre Royal
Jura is a single malt whisky that is produced on one of the remotest distilleries in Scotland. It’s quite remarkable that the sparsely populated, inner Hebridean island, once an isolating getaway for George Orwell due to its remote location, produces a single malt Scotch whisky that can be found in pretty much every corner shop and supermarket in the UK.
Jura’s nutty flavours and oily character makes for a whisky that can be deployed in sun downers and aperitif drinks, which suites the pre-theatre rush at Picardie Place to a tee. The ornate and magnificent Theatre Royal bar make several Jura serves but the showstopper is the colourful ‘Jura Sunset’ made with Jura 10 year old and Aperol in a glass chalice, with a basket of salted popcorn to garnish.
2. The Naked Scotsman whisky milkshake
at The City Café
The City Café just off the Royal Mile on Blair Street is known for many things; their collection of colourful neon signs, a basement karaoke bar, an Adam Richman-esque ultimate burger challenge and recently for fun, tasty and playful cocktails.
Newly added to the menu is the frankly jaw dropping Naked Scotsman; a malt whisky milkshake made with Naked Malt whisky, Irn-Bru ice cream and cherry sauce. Subtle it is not, but it’s a real head turner and the ultimate decadent delight.
3. Vivacious tin cup mules
in the garden at The Pear Tree
The latest addition to The Pear Tree garden is the cocktail shed serving customers enjoying the sunshine, watching the football, or enjoying the Sunday F1 on the largest outdoor screen in Scotland. The Pear Tree house has somewhat of a hidden history when it comes to Scotch whisky, as it was formally Nicholson House and the home of the Usher Family who created the first commercially blended Scotch whiskies in the mid-19th century.
The Pear Tree gardens cocktail shed serves a fresh twist on the Moscow Mule, a tin cup of Deanston Mule made with spicy and vanilla-rich Deanston Virgin Oak malt whisky, topped with Fever-Tree ginger beer, fresh lime, and mint.
4. Bloody whisky highballs
at The Bailie Bar
The whisky highball was a drink created out of necessity in the late 19th century when the English gentry, who adored sparkling wines and brandy topped with soda, had to switch to Scotch due to the Phylloxera virus plaguing European vineyards. The drink is also adored in Japan and this fashionable trend has seen it recently re-emerge in the Edinburgh bar scene, touted by global Scotch whisky brands with the lofty ambition of establishing the whisky highball as an authentic serve as iconic as the gin and tonic.
The risk of a bland highball comes from the choice of whisky and the choice of soda. If the whisky is too light or fruity, it can become thin and overdiluted in plain soda. This is not a worry at The Bailie Bar, situated in the leafy borough of Stockbridge. They have created a highball made from deep and rich Aberlour single malt whisky and Fever-Tree Blood Orange Soda, for a drink as rich and maroon in colour as the interior decoration of the bar itself.