Curtis McMillan
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Classic single malt cocktails

9th January, 2013 by Curtis McMillan

It’s been a good start to my year at the drinks business and I have enjoyed doing write ups on American whiskey.

Scotch cocktail makersI have got to sample many good, and many not so good expressions. I have been thinking over the holidays of going on with this same topic, but I have started to work on a new project that I hope to have wrapped up before summer.

Outside of my goal of locking down my own distillery, I have been working as a brand ambassador for a large (unnamed) single malts company. I have enjoyed it and it has showed me the true weakness in the Scotch market.

For the last few years I have travelled the New England area in a kilt talking about single malts. I find myself chatting to glassy eyed bartenders who dare not open a bottle of this expensive liquor. The fear of building or the lack of interest from consumers got me thinking. I never understood why people would steer away from Scotch, but were happy to use absurdly expensive vodka.

So I made a new year’s goal for myself to become the foremost expert on Scotch cocktails. To get started I found Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars by Charles Christopher Mueller. My initial goal with this book was to learn more about pre-prohibition cocktails. I stumbled onto a vast section of Scotch cocktails in his book and the idea hit me.

Why not start at the beginning and learn all I can about pre-prohibition cocktails before I cut my teeth with modern ones.?

So I decided to build one pre prohibition Scotch cocktail each week and write about my results in this trade. This will not be an easy task and I have already hit bumps in acquiring all the materials I will need.

You see I’m working with an ingredients list almost one hundred years old. I’m almost shocked to find some of the businesses still pumping out liquor or bitters, and sad to find some all closed up. It should be a wild ride of discovery and investigation. I hope to find a lost gem and get some fire back into the act of building Scotch cocktails.

Balvenie 15 year oldIf you want to follow along with me I will be building each of the Scotch cocktails in the Pioneers guide.

I will be using Balvenie 15 single barrel as my staple single malt. My reason behind this pick is most single malt Scotch has some type of finish, and I don’t believe finished Scotches will give me an accurate taste for the time period. As it also turns out I have a few bottles of 15 to burn and I just like it.

I hope to compile my data from a year’s worth of investigating and showcase it at this year’s Boston cocktail summit. I think it would be extremely interesting to see how this project turns out.

I hope you enjoy the direction I’m going, and will still frequent my column and twitter.

I would love to hear your feelings on the topic, and work with you on your thoughts as we build pre-prohibition Scotch cocktails together. I hope you understand I enjoy sampling new brands and I love to tell you about the good ones, but I feel it’s time for someone to stand up for single malts and showcase they can be a wonderful addition to any cocktail menu.

4 Responses to “Classic single malt cocktails”

  1. Iain frae' Riccall says:

    ‘I have a few bottles of 15 to burn and I just like it.’

    If you get fed up with your project, and need an injection of additional opinion, let me know. I’ll happily help you get rid of these bottles, try some cocktails, experiment new tastes. Just email me!!!!!

    Cheers and a Guid New Year.

  2. Andy Husain says:

    All the classic bars in Cuba served cocktails with Scotch during Prohibition and several like Sloppy Joe’s and El Floridita even gave away complimentary small booklets listing the ingredients of all their cocktails As far as I am aware it was always with blended Scotch, even if the bottle was a 12, 15 or more years. So I would be very surprised if pre-prohibition Scotch cocktails existed. Of course single malt whisky from the highlands and islands. and lowland grain whisky are an old tradition going back centuries. But the development of single malt whisky as a brand is a relatively new phenemon from the late 1960’s onwards.

  3. Marla says:

    We can’t wait to read up on this project!

  4. Jesse Bailey says:

    Did you ever make and try the drinks??? I can’t find anything else on this site – why not link this article to the recipes and reviews???

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