Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some whisky and wines to mark the birth date of poet Robert Burns.
Celebrated the world over, Burns Night - the birth date of poet Robert Burns - is always the perfect excuse for a Scottish-themed party, but this year, with January 25 landing on a Saturday, there’s even more reason to roll out the tartan carpet.
To welcome guests, a pre-dinner cocktail will help get everyone into the spirit (especially those who’ve been abstaining in January...). For the right flavour with whisky-cured smoked salmon, try mixing a drink with The Black Grouse, Famous Grouse (£17.95, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com) - its soft, peaty flavours with apple, spice and smoky notes will even appeal to ‘non-whisky’ drinkers.
n Smoked Orchard
25ml Black Grouse, 1 wedge of fresh lime, cranberry juice, apple juice
Half-fill a highball glass with ice. Add the whisky, squeeze the lime wedge into the glass and top with equal measures of cranberry juice and apple juice. Stir and serve with two cranberries.
Fans of malt whiskies which hail from the rich, full bodied flavour camp should try a wee dram of Old Harry 8 Year Old Malt Whisky (£25, 70cl, www.laithwaites.co.uk) which pairs well with the prunes and slight sweetness of cock-a-leekie soup. A blended malt from different distilleries, the sweet, fruity palate with orange peel, spice and a light peatiness has enough depth to last until the haggis is piped in.
A smidgen more aged, Waitrose 10 Year Old, Speyside (£23.20 from £29, from January 22 to February 11, 70cl Waitrose) single malt is matured in bourbon and sherry oak casks and with the scents of orchard fruits, a malty, creamy, spicy sweetness and Speyside grassy characteristics, this limited edition offers great value for money.
Vintage malts come at a premium, but for special occasions like this (after all, it is the biggest knees-up in the Scottish calendar) Balblair 2003 (£40.25, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com) is a pale beauty with a full-on floral nose and hints of butterscotch and toffee from the influence of ex-bourbon barrels and a rich mouthfeel of tropical fruits, honey and spice.
If whisky really isn’t your thing, don’t despair, there are plenty of other tipples to match a Highland feast.
A white wine punctuated with grapefruit and gooseberry not only makes a refreshing aperitif but can also be served with smoked fish starters as well as the soup. Try a sauvignon/semillon blend such as Finest Boranup Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012, Western Australia (£9.99, Tesco) with a herbaceous nose, zesty, citrus fruit and a flinty minerality on the finish.
When it’s time for the main event, a red wine with gusto will also complement the haggis, neeps and tatties (swede and mashed potato).
Try the rich, warm and plummy Saint Roch Cotes du Roussillon, France (£6.99, Morrisons) made from a blend of low-yielding, old vine syrah and grenache. Punching above its weight, this wine has enough depth of flavour to go with Scotch beef with peppercorn sauce as well as the peppery stuffing and gravy.