Looking for the perfect festive drink over the next few weeks? Think Scotch.
Not feet up, roaring fire kind of Scotch – although that’s pretty great too – but surprising, sparky, bringing the flavour kind of Scotch.
Loads of people think of whisky as the kicking back after-dinner drink and, much as I love that, one of the hottest trends in food and drink right now is pairing whisky with gastronomy, and this is especially true for people looking for something that little bit different at home.
According to research conducted by Cellar Trends, 73% of people* are crafting their own cocktails at home both for themselves and when hosting in order to satisfy their need for flavour exploration, using what they find in their cupboards as well as buying in items such as bitters and fruit for enhancing their creations.
With all of that in mind I thought it might be interesting to see how one of my favourite whiskies – Johnnie Walker Black Label – could bring the perfect Scotch twist to the traditional Christmas meal.
Why Black Label? Good question. Well in case you missed it, it’s the world’s number one selling premium blended Scotch, and to my mind, is the perfect choice for people looking to embark on their journey into the wonderful world of whisky. Much of its success is attributed to its versatility and the smooth, slightly spicy flavour profile that oozes character and hidden depths making it ideal for enjoying with all those indulgent festive treats.
A WELCOME COCKTAIL: JOHNNIE AND GINGER
Right let’s start at the beginning. Your guests come through the door and nothing says ‘I’ve got this’ more than presenting a cocktail upon arrival, no matter how simple it is to create.
With Johnnie and Ginger the ingredients are all in the name; Johnnie Walker Black Label topped up with ginger ale and crushed ice, finished with a simple lime-wedge garnish – easy to prepare and sip on. For an added twist, why not experiment with a few drops of bitters to taste and stir in.
A whisky-infused glaze can help you take your turkey to another level, by following the below recipe you’re going to create something quite special for your guests.
Twenty-five minutes before the turkey [10lb bird] is done, stir together a half-cup of Johnnie Walker Black Label and a half-cup of maple syrup and one tablespoon of vegetable oil. When in the oven the alcohol will burn off and you will be left with aromatic notes from the whisky combining with the sweet notes of the maple syrup to add a little bit of magic to this delicate white meat. Once the ingredients are mixed together take the turkey out of the oven and pour your glaze over the full bird, making sure you cover it in its entirety, then return it to the oven to crisp up. I would recommend serving a measure of Johnnie Walker Black Label with the turkey to complement the glaze, as well as giving you the perfect reference with which to explain what you’ve done differently when cooking your bird.
MINCE PIES WITH WHISKY CUSTARD
Pick up some homemade mince pies from your local bakery before tweaking shop-bought vanilla custard by stirring in 50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label per 500ml custard, gently warm and pour over the mince pies. Serve with a measure of Johnnie Walker Black Label to allow your guests to experience the richness and complexity of the whisky that enriched the food.
These are just suggestions for your grown-up guests, but the key thing to remember is that by using whisky in different ways you can explore how it affects the flavour of food you’ve been enjoying your whole life and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Johnnie Walker Master Blender Jim Beveridge agrees:“Don’t be afraid to experiment – just like in the process of whisky making – some of the most interesting combinations are unexpected and surprising. The mistake people make is to think there is one correct way of serving whisky. The only real trick is to drink it as you like it best – beyond that there is no right or wrong.
“For me, a quality dark chocolate with salted caramel reveals something really special in Black Label and the smooth finish of the whisky layered with rich smoke, peat and malt seems to deepen the flavours of the chocolate. It’s about as good as it gets.”
Greg Dillon, writer of GreatDrams.com is the UK’s Food & Drink Blogger of the Year. His book The Great Drams of Scotland: A Conversational Meander Through the Rich History of Scotch Whisky and the Brands That Have Brought it to Life is out now (Red Door, £19.99).
*People aged 39 and under