To Hell With Swords and Garter

January 25, 2011 (Day 360) — To Hell With Swords and Garter

Let other poets raise a fracas
‘Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ dru’ken Bacchus,
An’ crabbit names and stories wrack us,
An’ grate our lug,
I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,
In glass or jug.

O, thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch drink;
Whether thro’ wimplin’ worms thou jink,
Or, richly brown, ream o’er the brink,
In glorious faem,
Inspire me, till I lisp an’ wink,
To sing thy name!

From the poem Scotch Drink by Robert Burns

Today is a pretty special day for those of us who drink scotch. Think of it like the Scottish version of St. Patrick’s day, only no unnaturally colored beer resulting in unnaturally colored sick. Of which I’m not going to disturb you with a photo of. It’s Burns Day, celebrating Scotland’s national bard and his influence.

This is usually celebrated with a traditional Scottish meal and dram after dram of that loverly drink known as Scotch whisky. So you know I’m all over this holiday. I’ll let a real journalist who’s actually done their research to give you some history on the celebration:

Jan. 25, Scots the world over will pour a dram (or two) of golden comfort to toast the 250th birthday of their most celebrated hero — the late, great Robbie Burns. For many, the toast will come during an annual feast that’s been known to serve, generation after generation, a concoction of animal innards ground and stuffed into, well, more animal innards.

Such is the stuff tradition is made of.

The Ayrshire-born poet-farmer, who died at the tender age of 37, may indeed be considered the greatest Scot ever. But for most of the uninitiated attending a Burns Supper, the idea of stabbing a primeval haggis made with the lungs, liver and heart of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal and spices and boiled inside a sheep’s stomach may seem a little melodramatic, if not off-putting.

Alas, I don’t have the makings of haggis on hand, but I do have plenty of scotch. And that’s enough for me to celebrate the holiday in the way the Scot would have wanted.

O whiskey! soul o’ plays an’ pranks!
Accept a Bardie’s gratefu’ thanks!
When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks
Are my poor verses!
Thou comes—they rattle i’ their ranks
At ither’s a——s!

But, say you either don’t want to drink your dram neat, or you want a bit of variety for your scotch. While I’m a firm believer that scotch is best served without anything to sully it, there are some decent scotch-based cocktails out there.

To hell With Swords and Garter

1.5 oz Scotch whisky

1 oz dry vermouth

1.5 oz pineapple juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake well until a sweat forms on the outside of the shaker. Strain into a rocks glass with a few pieces of ice.

Done right, scotch can make one hell of a base spirit for cocktails. This is one such case. Pineapple juice seems like a bizarre choice to be mixed with this delicious smoky libation, but mixed with the dry vermouth it really does work. Further proof that perfect balance can either make or break the cocktail.

Only five more days left...

— Mark

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