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  • Boathouse Edinburgh

Creating the Perfect Winter Cocktail

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

As we trade in double-digit temperatures for double-lined winter coats, in true Scottish style it may be time to start trading out words like "nippy", "chilly" and "Baltic" for their more optimistic cousins in "cosy", "snug" and "intimate". Zero degrees? Cuppa by the fire. Snow up to our ankles? Glühwein at the Christmas Market. Well, now it's time to add cocktails at The Boathouse to your list of cold-day alternatives.

Our Bar Manager and Head Mixologist, Blair, has been working hard on a winter cocktail menu. We sat down with him to learn more about his process of coming up with new ideas and flavour combinations.

"There are two ways of creating a new cocktail", Blair states confidently. "You can either tweak a classic to find your own unique twist, or start with a concept and work backwards from there."

Mixology is an artform just like any other. The bar is Blair's canvas and his critics are your taste buds. We get an insight into the mind of the artist as he explains his first action is to write down a list of classics in his trusty notebook - a staple piece of equipment for any mixologist worth his salt rim.

"For this menu I used classic cocktails as a starting point", he says, running his finger down a handwritten catalogue of drinks and ingredients. "From there I began switching out components and replacing them with others that fit the theme I'm working towards - in this instance winter, warmth and cosiness. That way I end up with drinks that have all the balance of a classic, but with my own unique spin on them."

A young and fledgling bartender, Blair is mindful to point out that his methods are by no means the be-all-and-end-all of mixology. "I'm not self-taught", he insists. "Everything I know I learned from books and following my favourite bartenders on social media." Right on-cue he pulls out a couple of thick hardbacks with striking Death & Co branding - New York's world-famous bar with an awards list longer than a Long Island Iced Tea. But it's clear his passion for learning has taken him beyond the black and white teachings of ink on paper.

He's eager to talk about one cocktail in particular from his new seasonal menu. The Dirty Old Town - so-named because of his love for Irish punk band, The Pogues - closely resembles an Irish Coffee in that it uses a mixture of Slane Irish Whiskey and fresh espresso, but this drink has an added twist. For a start, instead of the usual cream garnish this drink is topped with a Guinness foam. No, that's not just a few centimetres of Guinness skimmed from the top of a pint - in reality the technique was a lot more complicated. Blair created a concentrated, sweetened version of Guinness by simmering it with Demerara sugar, evaporating the water out in a process called 'reduction'. He then mixed the resulting liquid with double cream and carbonated it with nitrous oxide to create a foam. It's a procedure seemingly more at home in a chemistry classroom than the kitchen of a beachside pub and is testament to how far the humble Blair has come since his early days behind the bar. The final drink is served steaming hot and sits indulgently and smooth on the tongue.

The extent of the effort and expertise that goes into every drink at The Boathouse may well be something even regular guests don't realise. As much as we have a reputation for our great food and stunning location, we want to highlight some of the faces behind our hard work and success. The journey of this young local man from rookie barback to proud bar manager is one we hope to replicate across Oscar's Group. Stay tuned for more staff features in the future.

The Dirty Old Town and the rest of the Winter Cocktail Menu are available from 22nd November 2021, only at The Boathouse.

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