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The Atholl Brose: Och! That’s Guid!

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No road trip for this column. I am hard pressed to think of a bar, no matter how well-stocked, that could make me an Atholl Brose. If you know of one, fair reader, please alert me. Perhaps St. Andrews in New York City?

The Atholl Brose, a Scottish oatmeal broth named after the first Earl of Atholl, is a perfect recourse for when it is 34 degrees in Orlando, as it is while I write this. It's colder here in New York, of course, but 34 in Florida just sounds and feels colder than 34 in New York. At two degrees above freezing, icy margaritas aren't an option. Drinks in January need to be warming, but egg nog season is over, even if the neighbor's Christmas decorations are still lit. Atholl Brose is a lethal oatmeal/whiskey combination that has served Scottish warriors since the sixteenth century, making it very vintage indeed.

Not technically a cocktail because it predates such a concept, the Atholl Brose has a glorious history of highland warfare and warm hearths. According to legend, the Earl of Atholl in Scotland used it to win a tribal war in 1475. Supposedly he filled a well with the stuff. The rebelling army drank it and became too inebriated to continue with the raping and pillaging. I believe the inebriation part. It is a strong drink. I don't quite hold with the idea of filling up a water well with oatmeal and no one noticing. The water in the Atholl wells must have been very dense indeed, except… wait! The Gaelic word for water is uisce, which is mispronounced in English as "whiskey." I now can picture the enemy army saying, "Whiskey! Whiskey! Whiskey!" and clutching their throats, and the Scottish host, nodding his head and offering more… water, water, water. But it's not. Wink, wink, Scottish wink.

The earliest recorded history has Queen Victoria drinking Atholl Brose on her visits to Perthshire, Scotland, where the Atholl Earls serve their alcoholic oatmeal broth. Here is a traditional recipe for Atholl Brose, attributed to the Royal Scots Fusiliers from André Simon's 1948 A Concise Encyclopædia of Gastronomy: Section VII, Wines and Spirits. It must be started the night before.

Steep 1/2 cup of oatmeal (preferably Scottish, but use anything but instant!) in 1 1/2 cups of cold water overnight.

The next day, strain the liquid from the oatmeal. The recipe calls for muslin. You can use ordinary cheesecloth found in a well-stocked supermarket. You'll have 1/2 cup of oatmeal water — the broth.

Pour 3 1/2 oz. of this liquid into a large rocks glass.
Add 3 1/2 oz. of whiskey. The recipe calls for Scotch, but you might want to use a blended and save the Scotch for sipping.

Add:
2 1/2 oz of cream
1/2 oz of honey

Mixing with a silver spoon is recommended.

I found an alternate, non-alcoholic recipe on the Hamlyns Oats site that, with a little tweak, lends itself to a variation on the Atholl Brose. Hamlyns claims that it is a "warming and relaxing drink, but at the same time stimulating." Anything that is relaxing and stimulating at the same time, without alcohol, is well worth a try. But imagine how much better it could be with a little whiskey thrown in.

3/4 cup water
2 tsp. Hamlyns Scottish Oatmeal
1/2 tsp. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Put the oatmeal, sugar, and ginger into a mug or small jug. Mix with a tablespoon of cold water taken from the 3/4 cup. Add the lemon juice. Boil the water and add to the mixture, stirring well until all is blended. The amounts of ginger and sugar may be varied according to taste.

To make this into a true Atholl Brose, add 2 oz. of whiskey. Use blended whiskey — save the malt for sipping.

Grain drinks are also very popular in Latin America, discrediting my cold climate/warm drinks insta-theory. Here is a variation on the Mexican Oatmeal Drink, originally posted by Chicana Peach. With some comparison testing, I found that a gold rum works better than bourbon with this sweet drink, and it smells divine in the preparation, something that occurs rarely in mixology. Again, this is best begun the night before.

1 cup Quaker old-fashioned oats soaked overnight in a cup
1 cinnamon stick broken in two or 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups water
2 cups skim milk
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. sugar
2 oz. Barbancourt Rhum

Soak the oatmeal overnight, or for at least six hours or so. Once that is done, place it in a medium pot and add the water and broken cinnamon stick. Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Next, add the milk and honey and cook on medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Finally, add the sugar and cook for 5 more minutes. You will know it's done as the consistency will thicken some and it will be a little creamy. Use more water or milk for a thinner consistency.

This was the sweetest of the three oatmeal concoctions. The original Atholl Brose was the creamiest and quite delicious, a perfect alternative to egg nog for the holidays. I will remind you in eleven months' time.

If you get discouraged with any of these worthy experiments — as I did with the Hamlyn Oats attempt below; notice the oatmeal collected at the bottom! — you can always try a new-fangled Oatmeal Cookie Drink. Layer 1 oz. Grand Marnier, 1 oz. butterscotch schnapps, and 1 oz. Irish Cream. However, you are probably better off just eating the cookie.

Mar sin leibh an dràsda — Ta ta for now!

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About Kate Shea Kennon

  • TFK

    I never mentioned it but my Atholl Brose was Guid indeed. I loved it. Your photos are great.

  • http://www.someplaceinbetween.com Meg

    Fun article, and thank you for helping to further my own adventures into Atholl Brose. I made the whipped version and one of your drinkable versions, and I can heartily recommend them both. I hope you’ll indulge this bit of self promotion … I also blogged about it here

    Slainte mhath!