5 Steps to a Brilliant Burns Night
Burns Night is approaching... a delicious evening of haggis, whisky and Scottish verse. Celebrated on January 25, the birthday of Robert Burns – perhaps Scotland’s greatest poet – a Burns Supper is just the way to lift the spirits in January. So we’ve consulted the experts at Glenmorangie’s Highland home, Glenmorangie House, to help you create the perfect Burns Supper in 5 easy steps, even if you’ve never hosted one before.
1. Get in the spirit with cocktails
Whether you’re a bigtime whisky fan or still experimenting with the spirit, there’s a whisky cocktail to suit your taste. “Cocktails are a good way to start the evening, because you’ll probably have a traditional dram with the haggis,” says David Guthrie, manager at Glenmorangie House. He recommends a Glenmorangie Lasanta Old Fashioned, made with walnut bitters, to bring out the nuttiness of this sherry-cask finished whisky. Or try a sour such as an Ardbeg Smoky Sour, or a Glenmorangie Matheson Sour.
2. Haggis with a whisky twist
Burns Night is all about the haggis, a Scottish dish traditionally made of meat, oatmeal, suet and seasoning, and served with neeps and tatties (mashed turnip and mashed potato). It’s relatively straightforward to prepare – simply mash potatoes and turnips and buy a first-class haggis to boil or bake (there are lots of vegetarian haggis options out there too). But to really lift your dish, the House’s head chef John Wilson recommends cooking up a whisky cream sauce. “The spicy, rich taste of Glenmorangie Lasanta works particularly well with the spicy, earthy taste of a haggis,” he says. “And because it’s bottled at higher strength, it really cuts through the creaminess.” If you’re serving haggis as a main, John suggests a scallop ceviche to start. Or you could start with haggis and follow up with a venison dish.
3. Now choose your dram
If you’re thinking tradition, you might want to wash down your Burns Supper with a dram served straight up, or with a little water. These days, we like a highball (3 parts soda, one part whisky), which can be sipped pre-dinner and through the meal. For those planning a cream sauce made with Glenmorangie Lasanta, John recommends enjoying the whisky’s spicy, rich flavours by drinking it alongside too. Ardbeg is also delicious with haggis. John suggests Ardbeg Ten Years Old, the world’s smokiest, peatiest Islay malt whisky – which could also be used in the sauce.
4. Enjoy sweetness with single malt
At Glenmorangie House, they keep things simple and Scottish on Burns Night with cranachan, a dish made with oatmeal, honey, cream and whisky. David says: “Ardbeg An Oa is fantastic in cranachan, because it’s got a sweeter note and a light smokiness.” John’s favourite is Glenmorangie Malaga Finish, a sweet and indulgent limited edition, aged for 12 years. Alternatively, pair a cheese board with a Glenmorangie tasting set. If you’re celebrating virtually, send a trio of half bottles to play with, or taste the flavours of two very different Distilleries with a Discovery Duo. David adds: “Glenmorangie Original tends to work well with soft cheeses, such as Brie and Port Salut, the Lasanta with a blue cheese, and Nectar D’Or with a strong Cheddar. Ardbeg’s smoky, sweet taste can work well with the creaminess of a mild blue cheese. It’s fun to put a cheese board together and let people find out which pairing they like best.”
5. Prepare for poetry and dancing
The best Burns suppers are relaxed occasions, full of music, laughter and friends. If, like most of us, you don’t have bagpipes to hand, find a video online and try a Scottish ceilidh dance in your living room, wearing as much tartan as you own. Of course, no Burns Night would be complete without poetry from Robert Burns himself. David says: “Try reciting a verse each of Address to a Haggis. You’ll have a laugh trying to pronounce the words – it’s hard even for Scots!”