Keep the Scottish spirit alive.

By Alex Van Buren
October 06, 2016
Keith McDuffee/Flickr (cc by 2.0)

Smoky, rich, and peaty, Lagavulin is a spirit that appeals to people who really love Scotch’s classic full-throated flavor. (Its own website describes the taste as an “intense, roaring bonfire.”) Lagavulin hails from the isle of Islay, part of Scotland, and boasts that region’s distinctively peaty notes. You can sip it neat or on the rocks, but it also lends a lovely nimbus of smoke to a cocktail. Here are a few ways American barkeeps are playing with the Scottish spirit.

The Belter

Dawn Kinstle, Lot 2, Brooklyn, NY

A smoky Old Fashioned of sorts, The Belter is “boozy and smooth,” says Kinstle, “with a little bit of sweetness and smokiness to play off the spiciness of the rye.”

  • 2 barspoons of 16-year Lagavulin
  • 1 barspoon Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 barspoon of simple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud bitters
  • 2 oz. rye, such as Overholt
  • Lemon peel twist, for garnish

Place all ingredients except garnish in a pint glass and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass containing one large ice cube or several smaller cubes. Garnish with lemon twist.

Orchard Bonfire

Kellie Thorn, Empire State South, Atlanta, GA

“Expressing” orange peel oils inside a cocktail glass lends a gorgeous citrusy bouquet to this super-flavorful Scotch and sherry drink leavened with pear liqueur and honey.

Orange peel, for oils and garnish
1.5 oz. Lagavulin
1 oz. Williams and Humbert 15-year Drysack Oloroso Sherry
.5 oz. St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
1 to 2 barspoons of honey syrup (equal parts honey and water, combined), to taste

Press orange peel against insides of Old Fashioned glass. Set aside. Stir the rest of ingredients together with one large ice cube in a cocktail shaker for 20 seconds. Strain cocktail into glass over a fresh large ice cube, and garnish with orange peel.

Smoky Martini

Sant Ambroeus, New York, NY

Imagine a drink with the strength of a martini and the smoky, wintry flavor profile of Scotch, and you get this riff on the classic martini.

.5 oz. dry vermouth
.5 oz. Lagavulin Scotch
3.5 oz. Mayfair gin or Stoli vodka
Lemon peel, for garnish

Add one scoop of ice and vermouth to cocktail shaker. Shake three times. Drain excess liquid and add Lagavulin and gin or vodka. Depending on preference, shake five times or stir for 15 seconds. Strain into chilled martini glass. Twist lemon peel over glass to express oils, then garnish drink.

Scottish Road

Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, Los Angeles, CA

For those who like their drinks strong and slightly bitter, this Scotch-forward concoction flecked with two types of Amaro should do the trick!

2 oz. Lagavulin Scotch
.05 oz. Amaro Lucano
.25 oz. Campari
Grapefruit peel twist, for garnish

Add all ingredients to pint glass and stir with ice for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled Old Fashioned glass over one large ice cube, and garnish with grapefruit peel.

Papas Pumpkin

Moses Laboy, Bottle & Bine, New York, NY

Scotch and pumpkin? It works in this peaty, pumpkin-y, sweet-tart concoction that is pretty much as autumnal as it gets!

  • 1 oz. Pumpkin Shrub (see below)
  • 1.5 oz. Lagavulin Scotch
  • .5 oz. simple syrup
  • .5 oz. lemon juice
  • Pumpkin seeds, to garnish

Make Pumpkin Shrub: Cut one 3-5 pound pumpkin in half; discard seeds and pulpy interior. Put two halves of pumpkin in oven for an hour at 350 degrees. Test with fork to make sure whole pumpkin is soft and cooked through; set aside to cool. Scoop pumpkin away from skin and put into large airproof container. Add 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 ½ cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Mix all ingredients together, refrigerate for 1-2 days, and strain. Discard solids. Refrigerate shrub for up to one month.

Make cocktail: Add first four ingredients to cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold, 10 seconds or so, and fine-strain into large rocks glass over one large ice cube. Serve with pumpkin seeds in small shot glass alongside, as a garnish.