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10 best Scottish drinks to toast the Bard on Burns Night

Whether you'll be part of a Rabbie-loving rabble or sipping at a poetry reading, grab a native tipple

Richard Hood,Nick Moyle
Tuesday 23 January 2024 16:53
<p>To help you celebrate in style, we’ve suggested a wide range of drinks, not just whisky </p>

To help you celebrate in style, we’ve suggested a wide range of drinks, not just whisky

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Most nations like a good excuse for a booze-fuelled get-together and, for Scots, 25 January provides one such occasion, as they celebrate the birth of national poet, Robert Burns.

Marked across the world due to the global reach of the poet’s verse, Burns Night commemorates the life and work of the Scottish writer, and gives revellers a chance to drink, eat and raise a glass to some of the nation’s cherished drams.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself amid a traditional Burns Night celebration, it’s possible you’ll encounter any number of Scottish cultural clichés. Think bagpipes, ceilidhs, tartan kilts, haggis, poetry recitals and, of course, booze – of which whisky is likely to be the toasting drink of choice.

However, being that Scotland is a multicultural country, it’s likely whisky won’t be the only booze on display. A range of locally produced drinks will almost certainly be available.

To help you celebrate Burns Night in style, we’ve suggested a wide range of drinks, each one produced with the kind of craftsmanship that we think would inspire the great man into poetic rapture.

The best Scottish drinks for Burns Night 2024 are:

  • Best overall – The Botanist Islay dry gin: £33.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best liqueur for Burns Night – Drambuie: £26.95, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best spiced rum – Dark Matter spiced rum: £28, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best single malt whisky liqueur – Bruadar: £24.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com
  • Best Scottish gin – Edinburgh Gin rhubarb and ginger liqueur: £14.74, Amazon.co.uk

The Botanist Islay dry gin

the-botanist-gin.jpg
  • Best: Overall
  • ABV: 46 per cent
  • Size: 70cl

For a taste of wild Scotland, wrap your taste buds around a glass of The Botanist’s dry gin. It’s a magical, mystical creation containing 22 botanicals hand-plucked from the Islay landscape and lovingly distilled along with classic gin ingredients. Cool floral flavours drift among fresh citrus notes, while hints of spice punctuate its smooth texture. The only downside? G&T-lovers may struggle to find a tonic good enough to pair it with.

  1. £33 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Drambuie the Isle of Skye liqueur

drambuie .jpg
  • Best: Liqueur for Burns Night
  • ABV: 40 per cent
  • Size: 50cl

Perhaps the most famous of all Scottish liqueurs, Drambuie is a heady mix of aged scotch whisky with smooth heather honey and warming spices. It’s most commonly found waltzing with a whisky accompaniment in the sporran-rousing “rusty nail” cocktail but its complex, herbal flavours work just as well poured neat over ice.

  1. £26 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Dark Matter spiced rum

dark-matter.jpg
  • Best: Spiced rum
  • ABV: 40 per cent
  • Size: 70cl

Scotland may not have much in common with the Caribbean but, as of 2015, both can claim authentic rum distilleries. Dark Matter is a molasses-based rum, distilled in Aberdeenshire and powerfully spiced, delivering gingery, peppery heat with some fruity cinnamon and allspice notes. Great served on its own or tamed with ginger beer or cola, its natural warmth means a Caribbean climate is definitely not required.

  1. £28 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Bruadar malt whisky liqueur

bruadar .jpg
  • Best: Single malt whisky liqueur
  • ABV: 24 per cent
  • Size: 70cl

This is a highly sippable Perthshire liqueur. The addition of sloes brings a tart hedgerow fruitiness to proceedings, while the honey mellows the single malt burn. At 24 per cent, it’s relatively forgiving for a whisky-based liqueur, but a wee dram or two of this will calm pre-ceilidh nerves, adding height and panache to any attempted Highland fling.

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Edinburgh Gin rhubarb and ginger liqueur

edinburgh-gin.jpg
  • Best: Gin for Burns Night
  • ABV: 20 per cent
  • Size: 50cl

When we heard that Edinburgh’s ace boozologists had been tinkering with rhubarb, our ears pricked up. The pink vegetable-that-thinks-it’s-a-fruit is one of the finest ingredients you can plunge into alcohol, and the Scottish distiller has given it the ultimate accolade by infusing it in its excellent craft gin.

Also invited to the party is ginger, lending some subtle warmth to the delicate rhubarb tartness, while still allowing the gin’s spicy juniper flavours to make their presence known. A beautiful balancing act that makes for an exceptional liqueur.

  1. £14 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Ogilvy potato vodka

ogilvy-vodka.jpg
  • Best: Vodka option
  • ABV: 40 per cent
  • Size: 10cl

The “ploughman poet” would heartily approve of this creamy, earth-born vodka. Tatties grown on farmland a short tractor ride from Glamis Castle are minced and mashed before being ushered through the hubble and bubble of Ogilvy’s column pot still. The result is a rich, warming, spud-tastic booze with hints of citrus and a long, mellow, pepper-flecked finish.

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Traquair Jacobite ale, 24 pack

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  • Best: Scottish ale
  • ABV: 8 per cent
  • Size: 330ml x 24

According to one of Robbie Burns’s poems: “Good ale makes me sell my hose/Sell my hose, and pawn my shoes” – in which case there’s every chance he surrendered his socks (hose) for a beer like this. Based on an 18th-century recipe, and brewed to celebrate the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, it’s a strong, spiced ale full of fruity flavours, with a vinous quality and shades of coriander. A very good ale indeed.

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Swannay Brewery island hopping

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  • Best: Scottish pale ale
  • ABV: 3.9 per cent
  • Size: 500ml

Most of the drinks in this list are laced with a fair amount of alcohol, so if you’re looking for something more sessionable, try this pale ale. It comes from the remote Orkney Islands and gets its hoppy flavours from New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hops. It’s a quaffable ale with notes of lemon and hay, with a touch of honey in the background – finishing with the kind of dry bitterness that can turn a swig into a session.

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Glenfiddich IPA cask whisky

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  • Best: Whisky for Burns Night
  • ABV: 43 per cent
  • Size: 70cl

Whisky distilleries are increasingly willing to experiment, to grab the attention of drinks buyers in search of something new. A recently successful whisky twist was provided by Glenfiddich, which worked with Speyside Brewery to age a specially brewed IPA in casks before emptying them out and replacing the contents with whisky. The infusions from the hoppy beer aren’t obvious but there’s citrussy lightness to the spirit that could be claimed are influenced by the beer. Regardless of its overall effect, it’s a mighty fine and unique whisky.

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Thistly Cross whisky cask cider, 24 pack

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  • Best: Cider for Burns Night
  • ABV: 6.7 per cent
  • Size: 330ml x 24

Leave a cider to age in an old spirit cask and it’ll inherit nutty tannins and flavours from the booze-soaked wood. Pilton’s Tamoshanta, a Somerset-made keeved cider is an exceptional example, but we’re sticking north of the border for a cider to grace our Burns Night table.

Thistly Cross whisky cask has been aged in Glen Moray barrels, which adds a layer of vanilla malt to an already decent cider. It’s quite sweet, but this is balanced by acidity and a fulsome, fruity bite that will match perfectly with your hearty haggis dinner.

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The verdict: Scottish drinks for Burns Night

Whisky may be the traditional tipple of Scotland, but the local botanicals in The Botanist’s brilliant gin make it our top choice for a wilder drink this Burns Night. Meanwhile, classics such as Drambuie are likely to hit the spot, while ciders and pale ales provide something a little more sessionable. Slainte!

Why not whet your whistle with our review of the best vermouths, or the best gins for your home bar?

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