Robert Burns – Old Waldorf Bar Days

It may have been named after the celebrated Scotsman. Chances are, however, that it was christened in honor of a cigar salesman, who “bought” in the Bar.

Dash of Orange Bitters

One dash of absinthe

One-quarter Italian Vermouth

Three-quarters Scotch Whiskey

Stir; strain

I perhaps should’ve said something sooner, the italics print above is exactly how it appears in the text of the book, weird American spelling and punctuation from a past era included.

Today being Burns day we’ve dipped our toes into Scottishness. Haggis has found its way onto one of our pizza’s, we’re offering an Octomore and Glen Grant fuelled whiskey flight in the restaurant, and in the bar I’ve had a packed cocktail class on Scotch and Scotch based cocktails.

Explaining the relevance of Burns night to someone new to the country is almost as tricky as making Haggis sound like something anyone would want to eat, especially when most people on the planet have heard of Shakespeare who doesn’t get a special night, but not a prolific Scottish poet who passed away over 200 years ago at the young age of 37. I couldn’t name any of his works, and even Wikipedia only highlighted one familiar name, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ – yes that new year’s eve ballad that no-one ever seems to know the actual words for, but sings it with all the enthusiasm that poor choices with alcohol fosters. And it turns out that his contribution to this was more of a putting pen to paper to record a popular tune of the day versus scribing it into existence.

Anyway, I love Haggis, I’m developing a slow admiration of whisky, and any excuse to theme something and attach drinking to it is a winner.

So a Robbie Burns cocktail (or Bobbie Burns, or Rabbie Burns or any vaguely Irvine Welsh sounding variation of Robert) is a variation of a Rob Roy which is a variation of a Manhattan. The flow makes sense.

  • I have a great drink with American whiskey, make it with Scottish whisky (willing to bet there’s an Irish whiskey variant out there lying in wait for St Patricks day).
  • Realise there’s an even more famous Scot, tweak said recipe and name it after said Scot.

And voila a classic is born. And when I say a classic each variation of his name seems to have a different drink, I went with this version as it has absinthe. I’m very easy to please.

I liked the drink. I don’t think its as good as a Manhattan, but that’s to be expected. Scotch is VERY difficult to use in cocktails, it’s the epitome of that kid that doesn’t play well with others. Its flavours are big and punchy, and they just don’t seem to marry well, taking over almost anything you use them in. This works well if you want it to (Penicillin a la Sam Ross is genius), otherwise it’s a little bit like trying to force a round brick through a square hole, and even my adored absinthe doesn’t quite smooth this over.

And apologies for the pic below, I spilled a bit when placing it in the ice well, it looks a little like yellow snow.