The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Burns Night 2021: 12 best Scottish drinks to toast the Bard

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

Richard Hood,Nick Moyle
Monday 25 January 2021 09:20
The Burns Supper is a celebration of the life of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns
The Burns Supper is a celebration of the life of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns

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.

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

However, it’s equally likely that it’s the only booze that will be on display and, being the multicultural country Scotland is, the locally produced drinks will almost certainly be more varied than scotch alone.

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 raptures.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

The Botanist gin, 46%: £31.90 for 70cl, Master of Malt

For a taste of wild Scotland, whisk your taste buds over to 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.

Buy now

Drambuie, 40%: £26 for 70cl, Morrisons

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. Slainte.

Buy now

Atholl Brose, 35%: £22.25 for 50cl, The Whisky Exchange

Inspired by a traditional Highland recipe, this ambrosial, golden liqueur uses Speyside single malt as a base. Honeyed notes of gingerbread, lavender and cinnamon skip on the tongue, and the addition of oatmeal gives it a velvety smooth mouthfeel. It’s the perfect fireside sipper and hip flask filler, and will soothe the lips of the most fervent bagpipe player.

Buy now

Dark Matter spiced rum, 40%: £30.89 for 70cl, Drink Supermarket

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.

Buy now

Bruadar, 22%: £19.45 for 70cl, The Whisky Exchange

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 22 per cent it’s relatively forgiving for a whisky-based liqueur, but a wee dram or two of this will calm pre-ceilidh nerves and will add height and panache to any attempted Highland fling.

Buy now

Edinburgh Gin rhubarb a ginger liqueur, 20%: £14.99 for 50cl, 31Dover

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.

Buy now

Ogilvy potato vodka, 40%: £34.95 for 70cl, The Whisky Exchange

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.

Buy now

Traquair Jacobite ale, 8%: £70 per case, Traquair

According to one Robbie Burns poem, “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.

Buy now

Swannay Brewery island hopping, 3.9%: £2.95 for 500ml, Swannay Brewery

Most of the drinks in this list are laced with a fair amount of alcohol, so if you’re looking for something more sessionable, then 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 and a touch of honey in the background, finishing with the kind of dry bitterness that can turn a swig into a session.

Buy now

Glenfiddich IPA cask whisky, 43%: £43.95 for 700ml, The Whisky Exchange

Whisky distilleries are increasingly willing to experiment in order to grab the attention of drinks buyers in search of something new. A recently successful whisky twist was provided by Glenfiddich, who 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.

Buy now

Thistly Cross whisky cask cider, 6.9% ABV: £2.99 for 330ml, The Pit Stop

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.

Buy now

The verdict: Scottish drinks for Burns Night

Whisky may be the traditional taste of Scotland, but the local botanicals in The Botanist’s brilliant gin make it our choice for a wilder drink this Burns night.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in