Spirits Around the World: Scotch
From classic cocktails to modern recipes, serve up this storied liquor at your next event
Talk about a heady origin story. Scotch whisky—spelled without the “e,” unlike other variants—first appears in written record 525 years ago in 1494 and is said to have evolved from a beverage the ancient Celts called uisge beatha, meaning “water of life.”
For centuries, the Scots ascribed mystical medicinal powers to the amber-colored drink, believing it potent enough to combat colic and smallpox.
As time went on, the liquor shed its medicinal image and became known as just that—a popular liquor. In 1644, the Scottish Parliament introduced taxes on the popular beverage, and so began the illicit distilling and trade of the beverage for the next 150 years. By the 1820s, more than half of the scotch consumed in Scotland was contraband, and as many as 14,000 illegal stills were confiscated every year.
Scotch whisky smuggling died out in the years after 1823’s Excise Act, which sanctioned the distilling of whisky in return for a license fee of £10 and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit.
Today, manufacturers must abide by strict production laws, including a rule that scotch be produced in Scotland, aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks and distilled at no less than 190 proof.
Although no longer prescribed as a cure-all nor illegal, Scotland’s national drink remains much beloved, with more than 120 whisky distilleries at work producing the liquor across the country.
So, raise a glass to this storied drink for your next event. Be it a new or vintage cocktail recipe, there’s a scotch drink for every palate.
Rob Roy: Named after 18th-century Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor, this cocktail, created in 1894, uses Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters.
The Rusty Nail: This swanky cocktail made its debut in 1937. A combination of Scotch whisky and Drambuie, a scotch-based liqueur, the beverage is often served on the rocks.
Blood and Sand: Looking for something a little fruitier? This classic cocktail was named for Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 bullfighter silent movie, “Blood and Sand.” Stir up Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, blood orange juice, cherry liqueur and ice for pleasant sipping.
Scotch Straight: Let’s not forget the easiest pour: scotch on the rocks. The simple cocktail will let attendees savor the liquor’s rich flavor and characteristic bite.
A Modern Take on Scotch Whisky
The Twice-Smoked Old-Fashioned: A contemporary twist on a traditional Old-Fashioned, this drink combines Scotch whisky, a sugar cube and a dot of bitters in a chilled mixing glass. Then, put the cocktail on a slate and smoke it under a glass dome with sherry oak cask chips.
The Penicillin: A nod to the liquor’s cure-all roots, this cocktail takes blended Scotch whisky, a single malt Scotch whisky, some lemon juice, honey syrup and fresh ginger.
Ruby Queen: For purists, mixing fresh red beet juice, lemon juice and fresh tarragon with their favorite blended Scotch whisky might sound like a bridge too far. But don’t knock it till you try it—the unusual ingredients make it a great way to mix up your beverage menu.