The complex flavors of Scotch differ from region to region, and many bar managers say that peated Scotches from Islay are gaining in popularity. And they are even being used in cocktails.
“People love peated single malts,” says Desoblin. “It’s crazy—anything peated just flies. It’s being pushed by a lot of distilleries that have one or two in this range and people’s fondness of the smoky flavor.”
At Vessel, peated Scotches are used as a unique addition to cocktails. “We use Islay Scotches as bitters and floats,” says Romdall. “The peat adds something different. It’s just like adding a different style of bitter. It adds a hint of smokiness in the cocktail to balance it out.” For example, the Dragon’s Blood, priced at $12, is made with Plymouth Gin, Green Chartreuse, Lustau Pedro Ximenez sherry, Angostura bitters, Pacifique Absinthe and a float of Ardbeg 10 Year Old Scotch.
Other Scotches make cocktail appearances as well. “Blended Scotches and single malts are appearing more than ever on cocktails lists with mixologists taking on the challenge of traditionally hard to mix spirit,” says Pearson. For example, the Rites of Spring, priced at $11, is made with Cutty Sark blended Scotch, lavender syrup, Domaine de Canton, lemon juice and a Benedictine rinse.
Cocktails are a great introduction to imported whiskeys and often use Scotch, says Liberato. For example, he offers the Penicillin, priced at $12, made with Famous Grouse Scotch, ginger syrup and honey syrup, served on a large block of ice in a rocks glass with a float of Laphroaig. Customers are also offered to call the Scotch of choice if they don’t want the well brand.
Educating the customer through cocktails is a surefire way to gain new interest in Scotch. “People should definitely give it a chance and not shy away from it,” says Liberato.
When you think of pairing drinks with food, wine is the first thing that comes to mind for most. Others might expand that to think of beer. But some locales are getting creative and offering tastings, flights and even pairings with Scotch.
At Brandy Library, Desoblin notices that young people are enjoying tasting flights. “It gives you the opportunity to taste six different Scotches at a time and share with your friends. When you break it down it is a great experience for two people to share and get educated on the variety of tastes. They can then show off what they tasted the next day at the office.” For example, “Singles of Speyside” offers a tasting of single malt Scotches from the Speyside region. For $42, customers get a tasting of Brandy Library Speyside for $18 that includes Cragganmore 12 Year Old, Tomintoul 10 Year Old, Longmorn 16 Year Old, Glenfarclas 17 Year Old, Mystery Speyside Malt.
They also have done pairing with cheeses from Artisanal restaurant in New York. For example, at a recent pairing, he matched Laphroaig Quarter cask with Bleu d’Auvergne, Laphroaig 15 with Valdeón, Bruichladdich 12 Year Old with Parmigiano di Cravero or Époisses (“they are very different but both work very well,” he says.), Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old with Manchego and Bowmore 15 years Darkest with Constant Bliss.
Flights are being considered as a menu item at Vessel, but Romdall notes that all of their spirits are sold with a half-ounce pour option. “People can taste a bunch and create their own flights,” he notes. And while they don’t officially pair Scotch with any of the items on the lounge’s limited menu, if people ask, they are given some options that are tailored to their food and drink preferences.
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