By Carey Jones and John D. McCarthy
Updated March 21, 2016
Credit: © Carey Jones

What makes a great liqueur? To us, it must play well with other spirits, while still contributing a ton of character and flavor on its own. Such is the case with Atholl Brose, our new favorite ingredient for spring cocktails.

In general, Atholl Brose is a rich drink made with Scotch, cream, oatmeal, and honey. (A little odd, but hey, we’d hit that). However, Dunkeld Atholl Brose is also the name of a Scotch-based liqueur, named the “best liqueur in the world” by the World Whisky Awards. Made from a base of Benromach Scotch, it’s got a distinctive smoky whisky base that’s underlaid with honey and spice, making for a warming, yet lively and floral sweet liqueur — ideal for bridging winter and spring.

While Atholl Brose, to our taste, is a bit sweet to sip on its own, it’s dynamite in cocktails, where it can play many roles. It can take the place of a base spirit, sweeten up straight liquor, or add its smoky-sweet character to lighter spring drinks. Here are three of our favorites.

Easy: The Edinburgh

It’s little surprise that this whisky-based liqueur pairs perfectly with more whisky. If you want to go full Scottish, you could use your favorite single-malt or blended Scotch here. But we like the balance that spicy rye brings in.

Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine 2 ounces of rye, 1/2 an ounce of Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and 1/2 an ounce of Atholl Brose. Stir all that up until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Intermediate: Atholl Brose & Lime

At 35 percent alcohol, Atholl Brose is within shouting distance of being considered a full-on spirit, so it can serve as the base ingredient in cocktails. Here, we lighten it up considerably with ginger, fresh lime, and soda — a great lesson in how even the bold flavors of Scotch can shine in lighter drinks.

Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle a small segment of fresh ginger (a slice about a quarter-inch thick and an inch long). Add 1 1/2 ounces of Atholl Brose, 1/2 an ounce of fresh lime juice, and ice. Shake all that up hard, then double-strain — through the shaker’s own strainer, and through a fine-mesh strainer — into a tall glass with fresh ice. Garnish with 3 ounces of club soda, and garnish with a few lime half-moons.

Advanced: Atholl Brose Sour

Since Atholl Brose has a whiskey base, it’s great in a whiskey sour; we like it best of all in a traditional whiskey sour, which includes egg white to give it a soft, silky texture.

Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine 1 1/2 ounces of Atholl Brose, 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice, and 1 egg white. Shake all that up without ice (that’s called a “wet shake”) then add ice and shake again (“dry shake”). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a thin lemon slice.