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Blasphemy! National Scotch Day Cocktails

Blasphemy! National Scotch Day Cocktails

by David Klemt

Craft cocktail in upscale bar

Psst! Don’t tell the purists but this article encourages the adulteration of Scotch by combining it with other ingredients to make *gasp!* cocktails.

Now, I jest…mostly. To be fair, I don’t often encounter purists who scoff or outright lost their minds if someone doesn’t enjoy their favorite spirit neat. However, it does happen every now and again. Seriously, it shouldn’t really matter how someone decides to order and enjoy their drinks. Want to order Johnnie Walker Blue Label with soda? Go for it.

So, below you’ll find cocktails rather than bottles for National Scotch Day. Sure, you can contact your reps, incur costs, and bring in some boast-worthy bottles. However, you can also spotlight what you already have on hand with revenue-generating Scotch cocktails.

No, you won’t find Scoch & Soda or the Rusty Nail among the recipes below. I would hope you and your bar team already have those down since they’re essentially two-ingredient drinks.

Also, I’ll award bonus points to anyone who locks eyes with a Scotch snob as they gulp down a Glenmorangie Signet Penicillin. Sure, that’s petty of me; it’s also fun. What are the bonus points good for? Hey, why are you asking so many questions?

A quick note: If you’d rather go with food on this holiday, check out our Scotch and cheese pairing article.


So, I’m going to start with my personal favorite Scotch cocktail. If you’re a KRG Hospitality regular, you already know this is one of my favorite drinks in general.

This is a modern-day classic—the Penicillin dates all the way back to the early 2000s. Operator, bartender, and cocktail creator calls for two types of Scotch to make this delectable drink.

  • 2 oz. Blended Scotch
  • 0.75 oz. Lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 0.75 oz. Honey-ginger syrup (1 cup honey, 1 cup water, 1 6-inch bit of peeled and thin-sliced ginger)
  • 0.25 oz. Peaty Islay Scotch to float
  • Candied ginger to garnish

Prepare a rocks glass with ice. Add first three ingredients to a shaker with ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into the rocks glass and float Islay Scotch on top. Then, garnish and present.

For the syrup: Combine syrup ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce, simmer for five minutes, and set aside overnight in refrigerator. The next day, strain through cheesecloth.

Rob Roy

If you want to be flippant about it, the Rob Roy is a Scotch Manhattan. Of course, it’s easy to make that argument as cocktail historians believe the Rob Roy is an homage. At any rate, both are true classics, dating back to the late 1800s.

One of the fun elements of the Rob Roy is creating a signature version. Obviously, the Scotch and vermouth selection will impact the flavors of this drink. So, come up with a combination all your own to make this one of your bar’s specialties.

  • 2 oz. Scotch
  • 0.75 oz. Vermouth (equal parts sweet and dry vermouths to make a Perfect Rob Roy)
  • 0.75 oz. Angostura Bitters
  • Brandied cherries to garnish

You’ll want to ensure you have chilled cocktail or Nick & Nora glasses on hand before starting this build. Combine the first three ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir unti well chilled and strain into chilled glass. Spear cherries, garnish, and serve.

Bobby Burns

Interestingly, some believe this cocktail is a riff on the Rob Roy. So, why not have Rob and Bobby on your National Scotch Day drink menu?

Now, the drinks are similar, but the flavor profiles are vastly different. After all, the ratio of Scotch to vermouth is 1:1, and the recipe uses Bénédictine rather than bitters.

  • 1 oz. Blended Scotch (supposedly, this should be at least 12 years old)
  • 1 oz. Sweet vermouth
  • 0.5 oz. Bénédictine
  • Lemon peel to garnish

Of course, this is where the argument that the Bobby Burns is a version of the Rob Roy gets stronger. See the build instructions for the Rob Roy above? Do the same, but garnish with a lemon peel.

Blood & Sand

Oddly enough, we don’t know the creator of this drink. We do know it appears in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930. However, we don’t know for certain that he’s the inventor.

At any rate, we do know this 1:1:1:1 cocktail is delicious and a hit with whiskey fans.

  • 0.75 oz. Scotch
  • 0.75 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 0.75 oz. Orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 0.75 oz. Sweet vermouth
  • Orange peel to garnish

Again, make sure you have chilled glassware to build this cocktail. In this case, coupes and cocktails. Combine all ingredients but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Next, strain into the glass, then garnish and present.

Rusty Compass

So, this build is a bit different from the others in that it calls for a particular Scotch and two specific liqueurs. Also, this one is bold as the Scotch you’ll use is rather powerful.

Obviously, this is a bit like a Rusty Nail, so you shouldn’t have any trouble with the recipe.

  • 2 oz. Compass Box The Peat Monster
  • 01.75 oz. Drambuie (for making Rusty Nails, too)
  • 0.5 oz. Cherry Heering (which you have on hand for making Blood & Sands)
  • Orange twist to garnish

As you’re probably already guessing, you combine all the ingredients but the garnish in a shaker with ice for this build. Shake it, strain it, and garnish it. Oh, and you’ll want to present this in a coupe.

Image: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett on Unsplash

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5 Books to Read this Month: January ’22

5 Books to Read this Month: January ’22

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills as we kick off 2022.

To review December 2021’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s jump in!

Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze

For those who want to learn more about Dry January, Try Dry is an insightful resource. Of course, this book is also informative beyond the first month of the year. As living alcohol-free movement becomes more mainstream, it’s important for operators to understand the movement. Whether permanent or temporary, there are myriad reasons some guests decide against drinking alcohol.

Of Peats and Putts: A Whisky and Golf Tour of Scotland

During the pandemic, interest in golf skyrocketed. In part, this has led to increased interest in golf simulators, driving ranges, and nine-hole rounds of golf rather than full, 18-hole outings. Of Peats and Putts tells the story of golf and whisky in Scotland. A compelling read for operators looking to bring golf into their businesses.

The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes

Not even two months on the market and already causing quite the buzz! The Way of the Cocktail comes from Julia Momosé, one of the minds behind Chicago cocktail destination Kumiko. From classics to new riffs, the recipes in this book are based on 24 micro-seasons.

Bourbon [Boxed Book & Ephemera Set]: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey

Clay Risen is considered an authority on spirits. In particular, he’s lauded as an expert on whiskey. Bourbon lovers will appreciate the Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey box set for what it is: a definitive history of America’s native spirit. Along with profiles of Kentucky distillers, Risen has included interviews and photographs to tell the story of bourbon.

Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas

There are many reasons to love amaro. Bitter and bittersweet notes, complex flavor profiles, and their utility when it comes to crafting low-ABV cocktails are among those reasons. Amaro by Brad Thomas Parsons explores the rich history of amaro and includes over 100 recipes.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash

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As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

As Guests Learn More, Luxury Grows

by David Klemt

Luxury concept featuring Champagne coupes on silver tray

Consumers are drinking better and the luxury categories of several spirits, wine and Champagne are benefitting.

Interestingly, this growth no longer appears to be driven solely by a desire to stand out and be seen.

Instead, according to one Bar Hacks podcast guest, consumers seem to be more carefully allocating their dollars.

Luxury Continues to Rise

The word “luxury” tends to conjure thoughts of expensive, high-end items.

Indeed, that’s certainly still a part of luxury. However, the concept of luxury as unattainable to most people is seemingly falling to the wayside.

Maxime Lecocq, Prestige sales manager in Las Vegas for Pernod-Ricard, shares a similar thought on episode 56 of Bar Hacks.

“The consumption style started to change during the pandemic,” says Lecocq. “So, people are more careful on what they’re drinking, where they’re spending their money.”

Intriguingly, Lecocq doesn’t mean that people were looking to spend as little as possible. Rather, they wanted higher quality for their dollars.

“Instead of having just any Scotch, they’re gonna research more,” Lecocq says. “Instead of spending, like, $25, they’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna spend $40 but I’m gonna be more careful about what I’m gonna drink.'”

As far as Lecocq is concerned, consumers doing more research is benefiting the luxury segment.

Why does he think that? Because it appears that research is leading consumers to spend more on luxury spirits and wine.

Numbers Support Luxury Growth

Early last month, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) shared their research into luxury spirits.

DISCUS data shows that during the period from 2015 to 2020, luxury spirits brands saw sales growth of 125 percent. Further, looking at the first half of 2021, luxury spirits volume is up 25 percent.

For the curious, DISCUS considers any brand that sells 750mL bottles at retail for $50 or more to fall within the luxury segment. So, $10 more than the example Lecocq provides during his Bar Hacks appearance.

There are six luxury categories tracked by DISCUS: American whiskey, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

On his podcast episode, Lecocq discussed three of those categories: Cognac, Single Malt Scotch, and Tequila.

Growth Categories

Per DISCUS, American whiskey has seen annual growth since 2015 of 41 percent. For Japanese whisky, that rate of growth is 42 percent.

Irish whiskey and Single Malt Scotch are also healthy annual growth. However, Irish whiskey’s annual growth is only a third of that of its Japanese counterpart at 14-plus percent.

Single Malt Scotch, in the first half of 2021, is up 5.6 percent.

According to DISCUS, Cognac’s annual growth is nearly 16 percent. Lecocq posits that this rise in interest in Cognac is down to shifting consumer perception.

Once thought of as “your grandparents’ drink,” younger consumers are now more eager to explore this type of brandy.

It’s perhaps tequila that sees the most interesting growth. Given its explosive and seemingly unwavering popularity, I thought the luxury tequila category would see growth in excess of 42 percent.

However, per DISCUS, luxury tequila brands are up 30.7 percent annually since 2015. Obviously, that’s impressive growth, and the category represents 28 million bottles sold.

That’s more than American, Irish, Japanese and Single Malt Scotch whiskeys combined.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that operators should abandon their less expensive spirits and wines. It does, however, show that consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be higher quality brands.

Image: Billy Huynh on Unsplash

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How About Some Cheese with that Scotch?

How About Some Cheese with that Scotch?

by David Klemt

Cheese plate with Brie, Parmesan, Pepperjack and white Cheddar cheeses

On Tuesday, July 27, America celebrates National Scotch Day.

Of course, we could round up an array of tempting bottles. However, we’re going in a different direction for this spirited holiday.

Instead of a roundup, we’re sharing cheese and Scotch pairings sure to pique the interest of your guests.

As our Bar Hacks Podcast listeners we know, we love a bonus. So, you’ll also find wine pairings below. You can use those on Sunday, July 25, National Wine & Cheese Day.

So, please share two of our favorite things, interesting food and beverage pairings and bonuses. Cheers!

Lighter Expressions

Scotches with lighter, mellower profiles and sweet, fruit or citrus flavors require pairings that won’t overpower them. Of course, being lighter doesn’t make them any less complex or mean they lack in sophistication.

Comté (French, cow’s milk)

Versions of Comté that have some age on them (18 or 24 months) are known for salty, earthy and creamy notes. Generally speaking, quality Comté is also known for hazelnut and buttery aromas and flavors. These pair well with Scotches with fruit and vanilla on the palate, like those aged in ex-bourbon barrels. (Wine pairings: Bordeaux, Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)

Gruyère (Swiss, cow’s milk)

So, you want to pair a Scotch that was aged in ex-Sherry casks with the perfect cheese. You want to offer a Gruyère here, as the nutty, garlicky and oniony notes of some versions will enhance—not overpower—the fruity, mellow notes and smoothness of the Scotch. Interestingly, some Gruyères resemble Comté. (Wine pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Malbec, Syrah)

Manchego (Spanish, sheep’s milk)

The richness of Manchego stands up to Scotches with citrus, vanilla, spice, and honey notes. Look for curado (aged three to six months) and viejo (aged 12 to 24 months) for the best aromas and flavors. (Wine pairings: Cava, Merlot, Rioja, Tempranillo)

Brie (French, cow’s milk)

This variety of cheese tends toward the subtle, with nutty notes. Brie plays well with Scotches that have fruity and sweet notes. (Wine pairings: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)

Parmesan (Italian, cow’s milk)

Speaking of nutty flavors, Parmesan pairs well with lighter Scotches that have bright citrus notes or earthier profiles. (Wine pairings: Lambrusco, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco)

Camembert (French, cow’s milk)

Another great selection for lighter Scotches. Camembert features sweet, floral notes that don’t overpower Scotches that also have sweet flavors. (Wine pairings: Champagne, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)

Feta (Greek, French, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk)

Interestingly, Feta has seen quite a rise in popularity with home chefs during the pandemic. So, give guests what they want and may have been cooking with themselves. Feta’s tanginess enhances the sweetness and fruitiness of lighter Scotches. (Wine pairings: Albariño, Champagne, Lambrusco, Riesling)

Heavier Expressions

Big, bold, full-bodied. Smoky and peaty. More intense Scotches need rich, sharp, and, oftentimes, creamy cheeses that can stand up to them.

Roquefort (French, sheep’s milk)

A blue cheese like Roquefort is sharp, rich and creamy, so it provides balance to smoky Scotches. (Wine pairings: Ice wine, Riesling, Sauterne, Sherry)

Stilton (English, Irish, cow’s milk)

Stilton, another blue cheese, is not as sharp as Roquefort and some others. However, it has a full body and its finish can be intense. That means it works well with rich, peaty Scotches. (Wine pairings: Gewürztraminer, Port, Riesling, Sherry)

Gouda (Dutch, cow’s milk)

Gouda, with a smoky profile itself, pairs with peaty, smoky Scotches. (Wine pairings: Barbera, Grüner Veltliner, Lambrusco, Zinfandel)

Cheddar (English, cow’s milk)

Have a Scotch that’s heavier on woody, oaky notes than smoke? Cheddar—and there are many options to choose from—plays well with such Scotches. (Wine pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cava, Champagne, Chardonnay)

Remember that executing a pairing at its highest level means including the staff. This will help them sell pairings, upsell pairings, and identify pairings in the first place.

Dietary note: Make sure to read the labels of the cheeses you put on your menu. If any cheese has animal rennet, they’re not fit for vegetarians or vegans to consume.

Image: Jennifer Murray from Pexels

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5 Books to Read this Month: July

5 Books to Read this Month: July

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills.

To review last month’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Tequila & Tacos: A Guide to Spirited Pairings

This pairing is iconic. However, this book proves the legendary pair can go well beyond just munching on a street taco and slamming a tequila shot. Moreover, Tequila & Tacos includes recipes for both classic tacos and modern versions like spicy cauliflower tacos. The perfect book to help you celebrate National Tequila Day on July 24.

A Long Stride

Just days after National Tequila Day comes National Scotch Day, which takes place July 27. A Long Stride tells the in-depth story of one Scotch in particular: Johnnie Walker. Published toward the end of last year, this book represents the most up-to-date history of arguably the most famous Scotch brand in the world.

Zero Proof: 90 Non-Alcoholic Recipes for Mindful Drinking

Temporary and permanent abstinence from alcohol is becoming more and more commonplace. That doesn’t mean, however, that people who aren’t drinking alcohol are staying out of bars. So, it’s important that operators update their drink programs with creative and memorable zero-proof cocktails. Zero Proof contains 90 alcohol-free recipes to inspire you to develop your non-alcohol menu section.

Playing with Fire

Summer is here and that means barbecue! Interestingly, though, many of today’s chefs have felt the siren song of cooking on open fire for a while now. Playing with Fire features 72 of Chef Michael Symon’s favorite recipes inspired by St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Kansas City, and other famous barbecue styles.

How to Grill Vegetables: The New Bible for Barbecuing Vegetables over Live Fire

Steven Raichlen has been dubbed “America’s master griller, and for good reason: there’s likely nothing he doesn’t know about barbecuing. In How to Grill Vegetables, Raichlen shows how to grill basically every vegetable over fire. This book features more than 100 recipes and explains how to grill eggplant on cedar planks, smoke lettuce with hay, cook whole onions directly on embers, and much more.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash