With Christmas a distant memory and spring a long way away, the end of January isn’t a traditionally cheerful time unless you follow Scottish tradition and throw a party to rival Hogmanay on the 25th. Burns Night is a celebration of the great Robert Burns, national hero and Scotland’s most beloved poet, and a great excuse to shake off the winter blues.
Surprising your guests with a haggis-infused cocktail or organising a Scottish tapas buffet instead of a stuffy sit-down dinner… Here are some ideas to turn your classic Burns Night Dinner into a pretty cool & innovative experience!
For Burns Night, multi award-winning Scotch Whisky, Glen Grant, has partnered with The Bon Vivant bar in Edinburgh to create the ‘The Chieftain’, a haggis-infused cocktail named after Robert Burns’ famous description of Scotland’s national dish, the “great chieftain o’ the pudding race”.
Created by Will Cox of the Bon Vivant, The Chieftain’s recipe is inspired by a traditional Burns Supper menu and includes the ingredients found in the occasion’s centerpiece.
Haggis is traditionally made from sheep’s offal (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, salt and spices. The Chieftain comprises of an oat-washed Glen Grant 10 Year Old combined with an offal stock syrup to replicate the unique meaty haggis flavour. It is served with a pickled red onion, representing the ‘heart’, a salt and pepper air, representing the ‘lungs’, a turnip cordial, a nod to the famous ‘neeps’ accompaniment, and a haggis rim.
Will Cox said: “The opportunity to team up with one of Scotland’s most iconic whiskies, Glen Grant, to make a Burns Nightcocktail was too good to miss. It was very challenging, but we had a lot of fun coming up with The Chieftain and are looking forward to serving it to customers with a haggis bon bon or two on Burns nicht.”
Nick Williamson, Marketing Director Campari UK, said: “With the bard’s birthday being such a well-loved celebration, we want to mark the occasion with the same creativity the man himself approached his work. The bar team at the Bon Vivant has done a remarkable job with The Chieftain and we look forward to raising a glass or two in celebration come the 25th January.”
THE CHIEFTAIN RECIPE:
Glen Grant 10 year old, oat washed
Offal stock glaze
Salt and pepper air
Pickled red onion
Haggis butter crumb
The Chieftain will be available to buy in The Bon Vivant Bar, 55 Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY for one night only on 25thJanuary 2016 priced at £9.
James McTaggart, Master Distiller at Isle of Arran Distillers who produce the world’s only official Robert Burns Malt, is well versed in how to throw a brilliant Burns Night celebration. Here he shares his top tips on how to welcome newcomers and make the evening an inclusive and modern affair.
Set the tone
Are you going to strictly adhere to traditions? Will your guests appreciate traditional pipe music? Do you want a dress code? Before deciding on anything, work out what sort of evening you want.
While there are many who believe there’s only one proper way to celebrate Burns Night, the most important thing is to have a good time. If a playlist of contemporary Scottish music is more appropriate to the atmosphere there’s certainly plenty to choose from (just type “Burns Night playlist’ on YouTube and you’ll be spoilt for choice)!
Pick your traditions:
Contrary to what many people may believe, Burns Night is traditionally a very structured affair. There are set times for welcome addresses, toasts, food and entertainment. If you’re not Scottish, or familiar with these traditions, it can be an intimidating itinerary.
Instead, select activities that will suit your party and the preferences of your guests. Poetry is naturally considered very important though, so if there are any brave guests, encourage them to get up and recite some of Burns’ work. ‘My Love is a Red, Red Rose’ and ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ are firm favourites. Or, as host, take command of the Selkirk Grace as you serve dinner in a nod to the man who has inspired hundreds of years’ worth of parties.
The Selkirk Grace
Some Folk hae meat that canna eat,
And some can eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be Thanket!
Of course, no Burns Night is complete without a rousing rendition of Auld Lang’s Syne, helped by an evening of whisky, which everyone should be familiar with.
Lay the table:
Food should be absolutely central to the party. The star of the show is normally a haggis which, in a traditional sit-down dinner, is piped in by bagpipes, toasted with a dram of whisky and pierced with a dagger before being eaten.
For a more modern (and less stuffy) take on proceedings, create a Scottish tapas menu. Serve a guests a trio of small servings that include all the Burns night favourites such as neeps and tatties (swede and potato), haggis with a drizzle of whisky sauce and cock-a-leekie soup.
Or, make the meal a simple celebration of Scottish produce with a sit down meal of salmon fishcakes, venison and local cheeses served with oat cakes followed by shortbread and coffee.
Know your whisky
Burns Night wouldn’t be complete without whisky and no table is set without a good selection of drams. Whisky has become very fashionable once again so you may find many of your guests will be more than happy to try something new.
“Add a modern twist by serving a flute of different varieties ranging from strong, peaty Scotch to those with lighter palates. Or, pick a distillery and present a variety of ages. Our core range, for example, offers slightly different taste profiles from the lighter, more citrus 10yo to the richer, fruity 14yo with a touch of spice.”
Whisky cocktails are increasingly popular and offer an alternative to a neat serving for those less familiar with a dram. Pick a softer whisky for mixing to give you the option of a varied menu.
At the core of any Burns Night is the entertainment. The most popular is probably the famous Toast to the Lassies and Reply to the Toast to the Lassies. Usually incorporating quotes from Burns, these are comical monologues, light hearted and positive (with the odd sharp observation).
Introduce a modern version of this to your night with men vs women games and competitions. The whole point of Burns Night to have an amazing time so fun should be at the heart of all your preparations.