Words by Theodora Sutcliffe & Simon Difford
The evening of January 25th is when Scots everywhere hold Burns Suppers in honour of the birth of Scotland's favourite poet and son, Robert Burns. Born on this day in 1759, one of seven children, he is most famous for writing the New Year favourite Auld Lang Syne.
Burns authored poems of such shocking filth and depravity they would probably be censored before broadcast today. Take the one about the lesbian who gets out of bed with her partner only to have a VERY messy accident. No? How about the epitaph which invites folk to piss on the deceased's grave? Several of Burns' ditties not only drop the C-word with bravura but go into graphic anatomical detail around the topic.
Anywise, for an 18th-century poet, Burns sure did get around, and on his birthday, Scots around the globe hold Burns Suppers in honour of this witty, foul-mouthed national treasure who died when he was only 37. That means the full Scottish Monty of haggis, bagpipes, kilts, whisky toasts, readings from Burns, and, of course, more whisky.
The highlight of the night is the reading of Burns' Ode To A Haggis, starting with the ceremonial piping in of the haggis, which is then viciously stabbed as the poem is recited and the haggis toasted with Scotch whisky. "My Heart's In The Highlands," Burns wrote. "The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth. Wherever I wander, wherever I rove, the hills of the Highlands for ever I love." And toast. Preferably with a highland single malt. All in all, Burns Night is an excuse for a raucous party under the wonderful guise of drinking to a deceased poet.
We hope that you'll be dredging all things tartan out of your wardrobe, prepping a haggis and finding some bagpipe music for the celebrations. But if not this is still the perfect excuse to crack open a bottle of whisky. Pour a little over the haggis, have a dram on the rocks... and enjoy the rest of it in a Bobby Burns cocktail. A riff on a Rob Roy, which itself is probably better known as a Scotch Manhattan, we recommend four different Bobby Burns versions:
The first, Craddock's Bobby Burns (scotch, sweet vermouth and Bénédictine liqueur) with its dash of French liqueur perhaps suits Jacobites wanting to also toast the part the French played in Bonnie Prince Charlie's doomed quest for the English throne.
Our second, Crockett's Bobby Burns (scotch, sweet vermouth, orange bitters and absinthe) with its dose of absinthe seems best suited to remembering the poet.
The third, Embury's Bobby Burns (scotch, sweet vermouth, Drambuie liqueur and Peychaud's bitters) uses Drambuie, which while also having French roots is the liqueur of the Scottish Highlands.
Lastly, my own Bobby Burns recipe combines elements from the above with the base formula from The Savoy Cocktail Book along with Peychaud's Bitters introduced by David Embury and Albert Stevens Crockett's addition of absinthe.
Alternatively, toast your haggis with The Haggis Horns. Sláinte Mhath (which translates to 'good health' and is pronounced 'slanj-uh-va.')!
A celebration which started in America, but no one knows why this date was chosen and we think 10 November is more fitting. However, we're always happy for an excuse to make an Irish Coffee so we're more than happy to celebrate today.
A simple drink made with four ingredients dating back to the 1940s when Joe Sheridan, a bartender working at Foynes' Port in Ireland, mixed up a coffee and whiskey concoction to warm travellers on a very wet and cold winter's night.
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