Atholl Brose

John Birdsall helped me write up the Atholl Brose cocktail I created for The Coachman on

Erik Ellestad’s Atholl Brose Cocktail, and John Birdsall

(Check the link for photos!)

When Erik Adkins, bar manager for the Slanted Door Group of restaurants in San Francisco, visited Clover Club in Brooklyn a few years ago he had a drink they were calling Atholl Brose: Scotch stirred with honey and topped with lightly whipped cream. In Scotland, Atholl Brose is a traditional beverage typically composed of the liquid from soaking oats—when you make oatmeal from raw steel-cut or stone-ground oats, you soak [the oats] in water so they prehydrate and don’t take as long to cook. To this, Scots would add honey, whisky, and cream.

When we started talking about the drinks for The Coachman, Atholl Brose was on the short list of cocktails Erik Adkins wanted to do, but we didn’t want to just replicate Clover Club’s drink. Plus I wanted to include some form of the traditional oat infusion, which the Clover Club had left out.

I tried a bunch of different combinations of these ingredients in various iterations and was starting to think I wouldn’t find a really good drink. Then one of the Coachman’s cooks, tasting an early test version, told me I needed to find some way to heighten the flavor of the oats. I took the roasted and soaked oats home and made oatmeal from them.

Eating them for breakfast the next day, I realized that the coffee I was drinking was heightening the roasted flavor of the oats without overwhelming them, kind of like bitters behave in a typical cocktail. I bought cold coffee concentrate on my way to work. As soon as I tasted the combination I knew we had a winner.

Atholl Brose (Scottish Breakfast)
Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces blended Scotch whisky
1/2 ounce honey syrup (*recipe follows)
1/4 ounce cold-process coffee concentrate
2 ounces oat-infused milk (**recipe follows)
Freshly grated nutmeg

METHOD: Combine Scotch, honey syrup, coffee concentrate, and oat-infused milk in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. (It is also really tasty warm, instead of chilled.)

*Honey Syrup
Add 1 cup honey to 1 cup hot water. Stir until honey is dissolved. Store in the fridge.

**Oat-Infused Milk
Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread 1 cup steel-cut or stone-ground oats onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for a half hour, then stir to redistribute and bake another 15 minutes, until they’re evenly tan and smell a bit like popcorn. Set aside to cool. Pour 1 quart whole milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. Warm until almost simmering (i.e., scalded). Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and the roasted oats. Add the hot milk, cool at room temperature, and refrigerate overnight. Next day, strain the oats, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Save the oats—you can make oatmeal by adding 2 to 3 cups of water and cooking over a low heat for about 45 minutes.

Atholl Brose

When I was telling some public transport acquaintances, (riding the same bus, at the same time for several years, eventually even a taciturn curmudgeon like myself meets some people,) about my recent adventures in Milk Punch, they mentioned that it sounded similar to a traditional drink they sometimes make called Atholl Brose.

Given my long term interest in Grain Based Beverages and Food Stuffs, Atholl Brose had always tweaked my interest, but never really enough to research and undertake production. I mean, Honey, Scotch, Oats and Cream, how could it be bad?

But to back track a bit…

Almost every civilized human culture on the planet has some form of grain based beverage. After all, soaking grain in water is the easiest way to derive some small portion of nutrition from it.

The New World has its corn based beverages, which vary in substance and sweetness all the way from liquidy beverages to puddings and eventually forming the basis for tortillas.

Likewise, in Asia, rice and soybeans get this treatment, creating a spectrum of nutrient rich foodstuffs from beverages and porridges to noodles and cakes.

Europe was no different, basing many of its grain beverages on Barley. To this day, you can buy Barley Water beverages at UK import stores and someone might think to make a batch for their senile old uncle who lives somewhere in the attic. Easier to digest than bread.

(At this point, I shall skip a long digression regarding the evolution of Barley Water to the Almond based Syrup which eventually came to be known as Orgeat. I instead refer you to the writeup of the talk I gave at Tales of the Cocktail in 2008: Homemade Ingredients. Most of that information is covered there.)

In Scotland, Oats and Barley were grains of choice, but much of the culinary energy was spent making the Oat palatable. Oats and Oatmeal are used nearly across the board as porridge, cake, and in a few cases beverages.

One of the most famous of these beverages is Atholl Brose, a drink composed of Oats, Honey, Cream, and, nicely, Scotch Whisky.

The name is a two part word. The Brose part of the name refers to the Oatmeal Water leftover from soaking oats. A nominally nutritious beverage, which only becomes palatable if you roast the oats and sweeten it with honey or sugar. Atholl refers to one of the original Pictish kingdoms of Scotland. It was a mountainous region, and calling the beverage “Atholl Brose” was sort of like calling it “Back Country Brose” or “Mountain Brose”, in other words, where the Whisky Stills were.

In any case, a little liquor and honey will put that annoying dyspeptic Uncle to sleep a bit faster than plain old Oat Water!

Scanning the Internet, I didn’t find much commonality among the various recipes for Atholl Brose.

Some were trifle-like puddings, others beverages, some just spiked porridge.

I figured I might as well try my own hand at a variation, using ingredients I like.

1 Cup Goat’s Milk
2 TBSP SF Beekeeper’s Honey
2 TBSP Toasted Steel Cut Oats*

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and discard. Warm and combine 2-1 with not too expensive Scotch.

*To toast steel cut oats, either put them in a dry pan over low heat and toss frequently until they smell toasty or pre-heat an oven to 325F, spread the oats on a sheet pan, and put in the oven, tossing occasionally, until they smell toasted.

Huh, that’s actually tasty! I started adding it to my coffee in the morning and to whatever other Alcoholic Spirits were handy at night. For the record: Scotch=Awesome. Bourbon=Awesome. Rum=OK. Irish Whiskey=Meh. Rye=Meh. It is even good warm or hot with no booze at all.

But I was soon out of that small batch of Brose and felt a twang of guilt about discarding the Oats. It nagged at my conscience as it just seemed out of the spirit of the Scots people and their famous thriftiness to discard the partially used oats.

So I made a larger batch.

Atholl Brose

1 quart Goat Milk
1 Cup Toasted Steel Cut Oats
1 Cup Decent Local Honey (It should be sweet on par with a liqueur.)

Scald Milk. Stir in Honey and Oats. Allow to stand over night. Strain oats out of liquid and reserve.

Use Brose to sweeten your coffee, drink, whatever.

The Oats can then be cooked for porridge:

Preheat oven to 300 F. Combine Drained Oats with 3 Cups Water. Bring to a simmer in oven proof pan. Cover and place in oven. Cook for an hour or so. Spoon into bowls. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers and microwave for quick oatmeal during the week.

I might add, this is definitely the most successful preparation of Steel Cut Oats I have yet made. Good texture and body with very little crunchiness. Definitely a way forward with an ingredient I have found stubborn in the past.

And to finish, I will quote Father Jack Crilly, a dyspeptic, alcoholic invalid if there ever was one. “DRINK! FECK! ARSE! GIRLS! CAKE!”

Laika Cocktail

Laika Cocktail

2 oz Vodka
Shy quarter ounce Lemon Juice
Quarter ounce 1-1 Honey Syrup
Allspice (aka Pimento) Dram

Stir with ice and strain into a glass coated with Allspice Dram. Squeeze thick swath of orange peel over cocktail and discard.

Another vodka cocktail I worked up for Heaven’s Dog.

I was trying to riff on the ingredients used in the Eastern European beverage calld Krupnik: vodka, lemon, honey, spice.

Trying to think of a name, Krupnik reminded me of Sputnik, which reminded me of the first animal to orbit the Earth, Laika.

If you have a vodka with some character, this cocktail will show it off.  I like to make it with the grape based vodka we have at work, CapRock.

Rock and Rye Cocktail

Rock and Rye Cocktail.
1 Glass Rye Whisky or Canadian Club. Dissolve 1 Piece of Rock Candy in it. The Juice of 1 Lemon can be added if desired.

Here’s another one that has made no sense to me. How do you dissolve a piece of rock candy in room temperature whiskey?

I started doing a bit of research about this and found a bunch of different recipes, from those as simple as the above to those which included spices and honey infused into the whiskey.

Looking over the more complicated recipes and articles, the consensus seemed to be that Rock and Rye should be flavored with Horehound and citrus. In addition, it seemed like Rock and Rye was considered some sort of home remedy for chest ailments like coughs and sore throats.

I found a couple recipes for straight horehound candies and horehound cough syrup. At that point, it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t adapt my usual punch method to this beverage, substituting the horehound syrup for the tea syrup.

750ml Wild Turkey Rye
Zest 1 Lemon
Zest 1 orange
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Horehound
1 TBSP fresh Lemon Balm (Melissa officianalis)
1 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed
1 Pound Honey
Rock Candy

Infuse Peels in Rye Whiskey for 24-48 hours. Bring water to a simmer, add spices, and remove from heat. Steep 15 minutes. Strain out solids. Add Honey and cool. Strain Rye off of peels and combine with spiced syrup. Filter into a clean sealable bottle. Add rock candy to bottle until it does not dissolve.

Rock And Rye

OK, as many of the horehound syrup and horehound candy recipes predicted, this is pretty bitter. Not exactly in an unpleasant way. More in a green, sagey, menthol-ish, and fairly pleasant way. Kind of like dandelion greens. Some friends also commented it was pretty sweet. I don’t see a way around that. The whole point of the “rock” in the bottles of rock and rye, is that the solution is so saturated that further sugar crystals won’t dissolve.

After running the finished product past a few more friends, LeNell Smother’s name came up as someone who made Rock and Rye. As a Rock and Rye evangelist, even. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to drop her a note, so I sent her the following question, “Recently reached the letter ‘R’ in the Savoy Cocktail Book and am researching Rock and Rye. When talking to some friends about it, your name came up as someone who had made an interesting version. I sort of treated it like a punch. I infused rye whiskey with lemon and orange peels. Made a horehound, lemon balm, and fennel seed syrup sweetened with honey. Combined the two and added rock candy to the bottles. It turned out at least interesting, but I have no real idea if it is even close to what rock and rye is supposed to taste like. How do you make it?”

She responded:

No “supposed” to taste like, in my opinion, as this was something folks just made and had sitting on the back of the bar. Not rocket science distillation. And probably everybody made it a bit differently. Some folks just sweetened up the rye with maybe lemon and nothing else…I make my rock and rye slightly different every time. It’s like cooking for me. I have a basic “recipe” but fuck around depending on what’s on hand. Sometimes I put more pineapple, sometimes none at all. Dried apricot? Raisins? The horehound can get too bitter for some people but I like it to balance out the sweetness plus it goes along with the cough suppressant notion.

Yes, funny! I was getting over some chest congestion just when making this recipe came up. Thus I can say with some authority that a rock and rye toddy is really good for chest congestion and a cough. Give it a try.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

De Rigueur Cocktail

De Rigueur Cocktail

1/2 Whisky. (1 1/2 oz Famous Grouse)
1/4 Grape Fruit Juice. (3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice)
1/4 Honey. (1 teaspoon Jan C. Snyder’s Blue Curls Honey.)
Cracked ice.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Another cocktail ripped from the pages of Judge Jr.’s “Here’s How”.

Hark, ye lads! Here’s the very latest drink! Three of these will knock you for a row of aspirins:

1/2 scotch;
1/4 grapefruit juice;
1/4 honey;
cracked ice.

I first tried this with the usual Compass Box Asyla and California Buckwheat Honey. The California Buckwheat honey was a bit much for the Asyla.

The second version with the nominally milder Blue Curls honey and Famous Grouse was better. I’ve no idea about the ridiculous amount of honey this recipe calls for. A teaspoon was, if anything, still a bit too sweet for me. Oh yeah, “Wooly Blue Curls,” I just have to type that again, if there is a better plant name than, “Wooly Blue Curls,” I don’t know what it is.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.