Cocktails with northern soul on

Inverness bartender Grant Murray will represent the UK at London Cocktail Week next month in the world semi-finals of the Cherry Heering cocktail competition.

Murray will go head to head with 46 other bartenders from around the globe as a judging panel of experts, including Simon Difford of Difford’s Guide, whittle the field down to a final ten.
Murray said reaching the semi-final was not only a victory for himself, but an endorsement of the Inverness bar scene as a whole.
“For someone from Inverness [to be in the semi-final] is great for the city and for Scotland,” he said.

Going Abroad With a Singapore Sling at Macleod’s Scottish Pub

The Watering Hole:Macleod’s Scottish Pub, 5200 Ballard Ave NW, 687-7115, BALLARD

The Atmosphere:This prime spot on the corner of 20th and Ballard Ave used to house Harlow’s Saloon, but the “pre-fab dive bar” went belly-up, and the space has undergone an impressive facelift since Macleod’s opened in December. The most striking feature is a magnificent, hand-painted map of Scotland on the ceiling, which gives the place sort of a Sistine Chapel feel. There are all sorts of other homages to Scotland, including a wall with framed pictures of famous Scots. The bar itself has been rebuilt too, and the tacky chic favored by Harlow’s was wisely replaced with handsome dark wood shelves to house Macleod’s impressive collection of single malts. It’s slow on a Tuesday afternoon, with indie rock on the stereo and two TVs tuned to Champions League soccer.

The Barkeep:Kevin Parisi moonlights at Amber in Belltown, and also lists a stint a the “Scotch-heavy” cocktail bar Tini Bigs on his résumé. He is set to embark on a three-month long trip to India in May, but plans to return to Seattle and Macleod’s when his odyssey on the sub-continent is over.

The bar’s namesake and co-owner Allen Macleod was on hand as well. Born in the U.S. but raised in Scotland by Scottish parents, he explains that this is his first foray into the business stateside after previously working as a barman in the UK. He’s partnering with the owners of Poquitos and nearby Bastille.

The Drink:Parisi offers two options when given free reign to mix whatever he pleases: something like a Manhattan or “something tiki.” With the sun shining outside, I say something tiki sounds about right. “Good,” he replies. “Then I get to beat something, and that’s fun for everybody involved.”

He shovels ice cubes into a canvas sack, then wails away at it with a heavy wooden muddler. It looks like a good way to blow off some steam, and Parisi jokes, “I’m much happier now,” as he pours the finely crushed ice into a pint glass. He explains that the stress-relieving prep work is for a Singapore Sling, chosen in honor of a friend of his currently traveling in southeast Asia. Parisi uses his iPhone to call up the other ingredients for the century-old cocktail, which originated at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

The recipe calls for pineapple juice, Gordon’s gin, Cherry Heering liqueur, Bénédictine, and Angostura bitters. He shakes it all up and pours it out, adding a dash more Heering and Bénédictine after tasting a few drops with a straw. There’s no foamy top like the classic Sling, but it looks colorful and tropical served over the ice, and garnished with a dark cherry, and lime and lemon wedges.

The Verdict:The syrupy Cherry Heering is the dominant flavor, and the potent drink tastes a bit like a dark cherry slushy spiked with gin — not something I’d order often, but apropos given the warm weather. On the whole, Macleod’s is certainly worth visiting, if only to chat up Macleod himself. On this visit, he was giving out free beers to a pair of new customers and quoting Trainspotting in his thick Scottish brogue. Discussing the prickly relations between Scots and Englishmen, Macleod dropped the famous line from the film, “Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonized by wankers.”

Embers Takes Guests on Journey through Scotland on

Embers, acclaimed in Boca Park for ‘steaks, ribs, and spirits,’ is setting itself apart from surrounding upscale eateries with its ethnic nights out.  Every once in a while, this restaurant will take a break from the traditional menu and dedicate its kitchen to an international prix-fixe pairing dinner.  This cultural celebration is becoming more of a monthly habit, making an excellent outlet for the gourmet diner looking to change things up.

On its most recent world tour, Embers featured a ‘Journey through Scotland’ dinner, where guests feasted on a five-course meal with a different fine Scotch accompanying every step of the way.

A Blood and Sand cocktail started the night on a sweet note with Cherry Heering Liqueur and orange juice balancing Sweet Vermouth and the first taste of Scotch.  The food opened up with a spread of Scottish favorites: house-made haggis, a Scotch egg, and black pudding.  Rich, savory flavors you won’t be able to find too many places across town; just be sure to try them before looking up the ingredients [as if that won’t send everyone to Google in the next 10 seconds].

Heering at “Eat This in NYC”

…I’ve been to many scotch bars in the city, but one I hadn’t visited yet was Highlands in the West Village. I had walked by before and peeked in and it looks much more like a casual, hip Southern restaurant than a scotch bar that serves food.
But as I sat in the front bar area, the dark, dim atmosphere transported me back to Scotland. If the extensive scotch list and gutbomb food didn’t seal the deal, the wallpaper on the bathroom (depicting grisly scenes in a beautiful Scotland park) sure did.

We ordered the TONY list item, a classic cocktail called Blood and Sand, which is named in honor of an old movie starring Rita Hayworth and Rudolph Valentino about a bullfighter. I’m not familiar with the movie and to be honest, I wasn’t too familiar with the drink itself. I must have had it in the past, but am certainly no connoisseur. I told you I prefer my scotch, neat, not shaken, not stirred, nothing added.
The Blood and Sand is a mix of scotch (Glenrothes Special Reserve, in this case), cherry heering, orange juice, and bitters. Pretty simple and straightforward and it works well enough.
I thought the proportions here were pretty accurate – no flavor was overwhelming but you got a sense of the spicy scotch, the citrusy orange juice, and the deep touch of sweetness from the cherry liqueur. In a way, I think maybe the flavors were a little too balanced and I wanted a bit more of a contrast. It felt like something was missing. Perhaps the scotch they used was not smoky enough. I wished there was a little more play between the Blood (the cherry) and the sand (the scotch) to give it a bit more depth.

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