A couple weeks back I wrote about cocktail competitions. One of the competitions was sponsored by Ardbeg Single Malt Scotch Whisky. I combined the peaty and smokey brilliance of that liquor with maple syrup, lemon, Drambuie,[ref]Itself a malt whisky liqueur distilled in Scotland, highlighted by honey, herbs, and other spices.[/ref] and egg white to create a take on a whisky sour-Rusty Nail mashup.

The grand prize is a trip to Scotland. And it turns out that I have been selected as a finalist to win the trip. There are 15 other bartenders who created concoctions and the chance to travel to Scotland drink themselves silly in Scotland. The competition states that if you finish in the top five your recipe will be featured in Chilled, the magazine which helped sponsor the whole thing. As you can imagine, I’m truly excited. I visited Scotland about 10 years ago, but was not the Scotch lover that I am today. I was also on a budget, but should be able to spend money this time around like a wild and inebriated ninny if I get lucky enough to win.

But enough about me, let’s talk about me.

I would normally never work with such a fine Scotch when making cocktails. Ardbeg should be imbibed  If I’m going to make a cocktail with Scotch as the base, I try to use Johnnie Walker Red Label. It’s a tasty enough product without breaking the bank and I don’t feel bad about hiding it behind other flavors. Scotch is not an easy product to work with. It can overwhelm other flavors but I think that’s acceptable since Scotch is like a bully you enjoy being picked on by.

In honor of my possible trip to Scotland, I’ve done you the favor of picking out some of my favorite Scotch cocktails and listed them below. Happy boozing.

Blood and Sand

Like most classic cocktails this has dozens of different ways to make the drink. I prefer not to make it with a one-to-one ratio of all the ingredients. As I said above, I want to taste my Scotch.

√ 1.5 oz. Scotch

√ .75 oz. sweet vermouth[ref]You know me, I’m a Carpano Antica guy.[/ref]

√ .75 oz. orange juice [ref]Freshly squeezed. Obviously blood orange can be subbed in if you’d like. The name is from a Rudolph Valentino movie supposedly, not blood oranges.[/ref]

√ .75 oz. Cherry Herring

√ .25 oz. simple syrup

Shake and strain into your favorite cocktail glass. Now there are a few variations on this cocktail. First of all, I think Cherry Herring can take a drink over, so I often drop this to about half an ounce, sometimes removing it completely and simply rinsing my glass with it. You can also leave the simple syrup out completely dependent upon how tasty the OJ is. Or leave it out completely if you don’t think the sweetness is needed. A great many folks complain about simple syrup, but it’s a necessary evil, especially in modern America where our palates tend to enjoy sweeter tastes.[ref]I don’t have any science to back me up, so fire away.[/ref]

Rusty Nail

As I mentioned above Drambuie is actually a whisky-based liqueur. It is a natural to be combined with Scotch and here it is in all its glory.

√ 2 oz. Scotch[ref]Feel free to use something a bit higher-end than Red Label here if you want. The Scotch is the real star of this drink.[/ref]

√ .5 oz. Drambuie

On the rocks with a lemon twist. You can use more Drambuie if you’d like, but I want that Scotch bite. You’re not drunk; I’m repeating myself. As I’ve said numerous times, there’s no set recipes here. You can adjust to your taste buds. Mine are different than yours and that’s the beauty of cocktail making. Adjusting here and there to find balance and highlight the main ingredient will end up impressing your taste buds and your friends.

Rob Roy 

Probably my favorite Scotch drink and my favorite Liam Neeson movie.

√ 2.25 oz. Scotch

√ 1 oz. sweet vermouth

Dash of Angostura bitters. Stir and serve either up or on the rocks.[ref] The rule is that if it has juice in it, you shake it. Of course this is about personal preference but I’d say stirring, if nothing else, makes you look like you know what you’re doing. And we all want to impress the blonde at the party.[/ref] You can add a dark cherry for garnish or roll with nothing.

The best part about this drink is that it’s a smokier version of a Manhattan. This drink is so good that if Liam Neeson’s daughter was kidnapped and he was enjoying one of these, he wouldn’t bother to go find her.

Scotch in a glass

Keep it simple, stupid.