Sunday, February 02, 2014

Great Scot! It’s A Burns Day Celebration!



Did you have a happy Burns Day?  What’s Burns Day, you ask?  Well, if you’re fan of a certain brown-colored spirit manufactured in Scotland, then you may already know – but if you don’t, I’ll be more than glad to explain.  Robert Burns was a Scottish poet whose birthday is celebrated around the world (but especially in The United Kingdom) every January 25th.  He is perhaps best known for writing the lyrics to the song many of us sing every New Year’s Eve. “Auld Lang Syne” and for a certain poem called “Address To A Haggis”, dedicated to a rather infamous Scottish comestible that has been the brunt of many jokes over the years (including a few by Yours Truly).  By now, you may be asking, “OK, so what’s a haggis?”.  All in good time, my dear friends, all in good time  …


The array of Scotch Whiskies was intimidating (to put it mildly), so I decided to take it a bit more slowly and instead try the cocktails.  Naturally, I began with the one named after the day’s guest of honor, The Bobby Burns Cocktail. 


Made with Scotch, Carpano Antica, Benedictine and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters, this tasty treat is sure to make Mr. Burns proud.  Served in a coupe glass, you’ll notice that it’s garnished with an orange peel; this garnish should not be underrated because it’s the real key to making this drink work – the outer side of the peel is run around the rim of the glass so that you can inhale the sweet scent of orange as you imbibe.  Should you choose to make this drink on your own, don’t neglect the garnish!

Next was The Highland Mule.  This cocktail consists of a Highland Scotch, ginger syrup, orgeat and lime juice.  Again, let’s focus on the garnish here, which in this case was a lime wheel.  Notice that the lime wheel goes for a swim in the drink rather than having a small slice in one side and perched along the rim of the glass.  I asked the bartender about her choice here and she said that it was merely for the sake of appearance – she thought it looked better.  While that may be true, I would suggest that there might be more to it than that.  Dunking the lime wheel into the mixture allows some of the flavor of the lime to be imparted to the cocktail and vice versa, for those who like to nibble on the garnish afterward. 


Last but not least was something called The Kings County Punch – Scotch, cherry heering, lemon juice and a splash of club soda.   Normally, I don’t particularly care for anything that would be branded as a “punch” because they can tend to be a bit too sweet for my taste.  In the case of Kings County Punch, however, the other ingredients managed to cut through the sweetness added by the cherry heering, making it somewhat more palatable to me. 


OK, I guess I’ve kept you all in suspense long enough.  Did I try the haggis?  Yes.  What was it like?  Well, hold on to your neeps and tatties boys and girls, here we go …


First of all, just what exactly is haggis?  A good question.  I ate it and I’m still not sure what it is.  Technically, it’s considered a pudding, but not the sweet kind with which you might be familiar.  It consists of sheep innards (such as heart, liver and lungs) combined with spices, salt, onion and other ingredients; the mixture is then packed into the sheep’s stomach, sewn up and simmered for hours in a stock before serving.  Sound yummy yet?


Since this was Burns Day after all, the haggis could not be served without first reading Robert Burns’ poem, “Address To A Haggis”; normally, the poem is recited and a bagpiper plays.  Unfortunately, there was no bagpiper available, but what we did have was a rather fun dramatic performance of the poem, at which point the haggis was sliced with a knife to great cheers from the crowd.  


The haggis was served with the traditional neeps and tatties – or boiled turnips and potatoes mashed up together.  So how was it?  I have to admit in all honesty that it wasn’t bad.  It’s a little embarrassing for me to have to say this after all of the years I’ve spent making jokes about this stuff.  Would I eat it again?  Put it this way – at this celebration, I had two helpings!  As far as the turnips and potatoes were concerned, this was a far more conventional taste to me – very reminiscent of Thanksgiving dinner. 

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