Summery Whisky Cocktails for National Scotch Day

Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky
Braveheart cocktail with Black Grouse Whisky


There seems to be a “National Day” for every drink out there. That’s OK by me. Monday July 27 is National Scotch Day, which is a perfect reason to enjoy a glass or two of lovely Scotch whisky. These days Bourbon is favored over Scotch in the U.S., but Scotch certainly deserves a place on your bar.

This stuff has a long heritage. The Scots have been making whisky since the late 15th century with malted barley. The first written mention of Scotch dates back to 1494. Today Scotch is made from a combo of malt and grain, compared to Bourbon which is made with grain including at least 51 percent corn. Depending on the mixture of malt and grain, Scotch comes in five types:

  • Single malt whisky – malt whisky from a single distillery
  • Single grain whisky – grain whisky from a single distillery (not common)
  • Blended malt whisky – a mixture of malt whiskies from different distilleries
  • Blended grain whisky – a mixture of grain whiskies from different distilleries (not common)
  • Blended whisky – a mixture of malt and grain whisky, usually from different distilleries

In addition to the types, the location where Scotch is made also has a bearing on it.

  • Lowland — considered to be mild, mellow, and delicate
  • Highland — the largest region for Scotch has well-known distilleries such as: Dalmore, Glenmorangie, Oban and Talisker
  • Islay — known for heavily peated and smoky single malts like Laphroaig
  • Speyside — situated next to the River Spey and known for creamy and fruity whiskies, it has the largest number of distilleries like Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan.
  • Campbeltown — the smallest of the whisky producing regions, used to have several distilleries, but now only Glengyle, Glen Scotia, and Springbank remain

No matter which type or region, Scotch is delightful by itself or with ice. It’s also delicious in cocktails. Here are a few summery concoctions that you can make at home.

Created by Tim Heuisler, Time Restaurant, Philadelphia
A hearty, smoky take on the Bloody Mary.

  • 2 oz. The Black Grouse
  • 3 ½ oz. tomato juice (or Bloody Mary Mix)
  • ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Worcestershire
  • Pinch celery salt
  • Pinch fresh horseradish

Shake all ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish with a gherkin, pickled onion and piece of bacon.

The Front Porch Punch
Created by Eryn Reece of Death & Company (NYC)
A refreshing summer drink that is slightly sweet with the herbal flavor of the tea and the smokiness of the whisky.

  •  2 oz Chai Tea Infused Famous Grouse*
  • .5 oz Lemon Juice
  • .5 oz Pineapple Juice
  • .75 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz Soda Water

*To Make Chai-Tea Infused Famous Grouse: Add 4 tablespoons loose leaf chai tea to a 750 mL bottle of The Famous Grouse. Let sit for at least half an hour and strain desired amount. Using the chai tea infused Famous Grouse as the base, combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain onto fresh ice in a rocks glass and garnish with lemon wheels.

Grouse Front Porch Punch 3

That Scotch One
Created by Gareth Howells, Forrest Point, Brooklyn
Bitter, sweet and refreshing on a hot summer afternoon.

  • 1 ½  oz Cutty Sark Whisky
  • ½ oz Cocchi Americano
  • ¾ oz White Peppercorn, Hibiscus Honey Syrup
  • ¾ oz Lemon Juice
  • 2 Dash Peychauds Bitters
  • Boylan Creme Float
  • Muddled Strawberry
  • Mint Sprig Garnish

Combine all ingredients except the Boylan Creme in a Collins glass. Top with a Boylan Creme float and garnish with a sprig of mint.

That Scotch One


Disclosure: I received samples of various whiskies at no cost.

What are you drinking? 

2014 Wine Ride “The Oregon Trail” Visits 3 Texas Cities in October, 2014

Wine Ride

Diane Dixon, the brains behind Keeper Collection, is always scheming fun ways to present amazing food and wine pairings. She has created a portfolio of spectacular annual events including  CITYWIDE 86’D, which recently won a “Best of Austin Award” from the Austin Chronicle,  Chef’s Under Fire, Somms Under Fire and of course The Wine Ride. Each one has a unique way of involving guests in an amazing experience with culinary and beverage talent.

This year, the Wine Ride – The Oregon Trail, wine and food pairing event, will be held in Houston at Kipper Club Test Kitchen with food from Chef Graham LaBorde on Saturday, October 18, 2014, in Dallas/Fort Worth at Clay Pigeon Food and Drink with food by Chef Marcus Paslay on Sunday, October 19, and in Austin at W Austin with food from Chef Thomas Riordan on Monday, October 20, 2014. At each of the three events  guests will learn about the terroir and wines of Chapter 24 Vineyards,  the Oregon wines of Raptor Ridge, which will be paired with a three-course meal.

I’m a sucker for Oregon wine. The only thing better is having Oregon wine expertly paired by extremely knowledgeable sommeliers and chefs. Advanced Sommeliers will present a wine education program before the dinner in each city. In Houston, the brilliant David Keck will show his magic, Dallas guests will be awed by Jason Hisaw, and Austin will be treated to a spectacular session with the brilliant June Rodil.

There are only fifty seats available in each city. It will be an amazing experience to eat and drink with these pros in such an intimate setting. Tickets are a bargain for $95.

Diane Dixon and Devon Broglie
Diane Dixon and Devon Broglie

What are you drinking? 

How to Dog a Dram of The Balvenie Whisky

The Balvenie 17 yr tasteIn a recent visit to Austin as a part of The Balvenie’s second annual Rare Craft Collection exhibition tour, Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie brand ambassador, invited me to “dog a dram from the bung of a sherry butt.” Ahem, excuse me?

It turns out that I wasn’t the butt of some Scottish joke. A “dog” refers to a handmade copper pipe that can hold 100 milliliters (a little more than 3 ounces) of liquid. Legend has it that deceitful distillery workers in the early 1900s would filch shots of whisky by dipping the cylindrical dogs into the small opening of whisky barrels. They would then drop it down their drawers with chains attached to their belts to sneak it out unnoticed.

It begs for a “or are you just happy to see me” joke.

Dog a Dram
Dogging a dram from the bung of a sherry butt


The Balvenie made replicas of these dogs to show off just how delicious its whisky is when aged in sherry casks and tasted straight from the barrel. If you didn’t get to dip your dog in the bung, never fear, you can replicate the experience with a bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 to experience how delicious whisky can be when aged in barrels previously used to age sherry.

DoubleWood may sound like yet another double entendre, but it refers to the whisky-aging process. The Balvenie’s malt master, David Stewart, who recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with the company, matures whisky in two different types of cask consecutively. The Balvenie starts by aging its whisky—made with barley grown and malted by the distillery—in American oak barrels, which give it soft vanilla flavors. It is then moved to European oak sherry casks, which give it additional vanilla flavors layered with honeyed sweetness and spicy flavors.

This is a lovely whisky to enjoy on a cool autumn night. Give it a sniff with your mouth wide open to properly appreciate the invigorating scents of baking spices, honey, vanilla and apple. Consider adding a drop or two of water and sip it neat. The water relaxes the chemical bonds of the ethyl alcohol to set the aromas free and gives it a silkier feel. Enjoy the caramel, toasted almond, cinnamon and toffee flavors while you contemplate how much more interesting The Sun Also Rises would be if you were in it.

This fantastic experience will set you back about $150. You are worth it.



This story was originally published on Austin Man Magazine.

What Are You Drinking? 

Lost in Translation? Try Oban 14 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.”

Like Bill Murray playing the character Bob Harris in the movie “Lost in Translation,” I found myself sitting alone at a hotel bar in Tokyo tonight listening to the cacophony of foreign voices having unintelligible conversations. Chipper tones and drawn out vowels danced like bird song at an aviary. Indecipherable words fell like silk curtains separating me from the people around me. The ghostlike haze of jetlag further distanced me from my surroundings. I’ve been gone for a week and I miss Beautiful Wife, my darling kidlets, my friends and the comforts of home. I could completely relate to Bob feeling adrift in a distant land. If you haven’t seen the movie, go get it.

What’s a man to do? Visit a dear old friend: whisky. I couldn’t get a Suntory, the whisky Bob pitched in the movie, so I ordered a 14 year old Oban Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Ah, there you are. Oban is a good friend with that familiar lilting hello breaking through the fog of strangers’ meaningless conversations. She’s a gentle reminder that I’m not completely alone despite being 6,500 miles from home and 14 hours ahead in the day.

Oban a west highland whisky distillery, now owned by mega company Diageo, was founded in 1794 and is situated on the western coast of Scotland. The town of Oban grew up around the distillery and is also known as the “Gateway to the Isles”.  Diageo started a movement to designate “Classic Malts” in 1985, and Oban represents the West Coast in that designation. Oban is easily one of the most famous of the western highlands and is known for its easy drinking style.

Look Amber as intriguing as it is dangerous to the tiny insect.
Smell Smoked honeyed oranges with sea salt and spice.
Taste Alcoholic flirt with a rose petal, carameled pear at the front followed by smoky peat with a long, sweet oak finish.
Price 1,900 ¥ per glass or about $22  

 Even if you aren’t sitting alone in a hotel bar in a foreign country, Oban Single Malt Scotch Whisky makes a good friend.

 Bob: “You want more mysterious? I’ll just try and think, ‘Where the hell’s the whiskey?’”

 What are you drinking?