Spirited Cuisine: Drambuie, “the drink that satisfies”

Bonnie Prince Charles recommends Drambuie

This is the third installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each week or so I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Last fall on BBC America, I started to see an ad featuring a young man running across the rooftops of some foggy city, intercut with apparently the same man sporting much longer hair and wearing a kilt, dashing across the Scottish highlands. Eventually the kilted man throws a scroll, the rooftop man catches it and pockets it, and the rooftop man lands at a rooftop bar, calmly joins the party, and orders a drink that turns out to be Drambuie and soda. (Currently you can see the ad in the Advertising section of the official Drambuie website. Purportedly the rooftops are those of Edinburgh. )

I didn’t like the ad — I still don’t. Why is the guy jumping across rooftops? Why does he stop at the bar — where did his pursuers go? What does it have to do with the guy from hundreds of years ago throwing a piece of paper? What’s on the paper? But the ad did get me thinking about Drambuie, which I’d never tried. I hadn’t known it was from Scotland, and I’d certainly not thought of drinking it with soda. Maybe it would be interesting….

Sure enough, one evening at a happy hour I found myself ordering Drambuie and soda, and I really enjoyed it. Sweet but not syrupy, kind of like a leaner whiskey and cola, or an exotic alternative to rum and Coke.

And so we see that an ad doesn’t have to be likeable to be effective.

As it happens, Drambuie has a tough hill to climb to get attention. It’s made from Scotch whisky, but the average Scotch drinker is repelled by the thought of polluting Scotch with honey and herbs. Meanwhile, those who like sweet cocktails shake their heads at the idea of drinking anything that involves smokey Scotch.

All of which is too bad for a storied liquor. Drambuie was created over 250 years ago for Charles Edward Stuart — Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Rebel Prince — by his apothecary, as a way to fortify the prince and his top clansmen in battle. (That’s Charles in the advertisement — quite a snappy dresser, eh?) As to how the liqueur got from the Prince’s kitchens to bars around the world:

In 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled to the isle of Skye. There, he was given sanctuary by Captain John Mackinnon. After staying with the Captain, the prince rewarded him with this prized drink recipe. The Mackinnon family has been producing the drink since. (Wikipedia)

The name Drambuie comes from the Scottish Gaelic phrase "am dram buidheach," "the drink that satisfies." The recipe is secret (naturally), but is known to involve Scotch whisky and honey, plus possibly saffron, nutmeg, and other spices believed to be healthful at the time.

The most common ways to drink Drambuie are on the rocks and in a Rusty Nail — a simple but classic cocktail, 1 part Scotch whisky and 1 part Drambuie, stirred and served over ice. The makers of Drambuie have thought up lots of other ways to drink more of their product, all of which you can find buried within the foot-dragging Flash of the Drambuie website.

And if that’s not enough to convince you to pick up a bottle for your liquor cabinet, Sri has concocted a simple and yummy dessert that makes the most of Drambuie’s spicy seduction. Please hop over to his site and enjoy A Toast to Drambuie.

And as for next time: Our featured spirit will be brandy — the oldest spirit, and a great way to warm oneself on a chilly winter’s day.

3 replies on “Spirited Cuisine: Drambuie, “the drink that satisfies””

  1. Mmmm. My mom and I discovered Drambuie last winter, when somebody sent us a dry fruitcake and we rooted around in the liquor cabinet to find something to drown it in.

    There were a lot of odd liquors/liqueurs there–my parents were both exclusive Jack Daniels drinkers, but people bring gifts, you know?–none of which looked like quite the thing for soaking a fruitcake. But then we opened the Drambuie and tasted it, and our eyebrows went up. It was niiiiice. So every week after we’d poured some more on the fruitcake, we poured ourselves a nip and drank it. Tasty stuff.

    So I think Sri’s cinnamon-raisin-Drambuie toast is a fine idea, and I will be making some just as soon as I steal the half-bottle of Drambuie from my mom’s house.

  2. Ooh, Drambuie-soaked fruitcake sounds delish! And really rich, perfect for the holiday season. Well done!

    This cinnamon toast version has the distinct advantage of being more modular than serving up a whole fruitcake — you can make exactly the number of servings you need. And I suppose it’s also easier to create any time of year.

    I haven’t typically kept star anise on hand, but I may need to begin. Such a pretty little spice.

  3. I heard it’s supposed to be nice on haggis so I thinnk we’ll try that at Burns supper Friday night. I learned about Drambuie many years ago from my mother (who just passed away this year at age 80) who used to drink it after our weekly Friday night dinner at Babe’s restauarant. She always drank it neat.

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