Single malt cocktails: five original twists on the classics for autumn and Christmas

From a fresh spin on the Hot Toddy to a single malt Pina Colada, there are a host of new ways to enjoy premium Scotch. Our experts share the drinks they’ll be serving up as the nights draw in, says Suzy Pope

The golden hue of autumn leaves, the scent of wood smoke and bonfires … there’s no spirit that better captures the feeling of autumn than a single malt. But single malts have, for unfathomable reasons, long been the purview of the connoisseur. What better season to usher in the realisation that they can also star in some truly tasty cocktails that are perfect for the weeks ahead? Here’s an array of five moreish cocktails to see you through the long autumn nights. The classically floral and fruity flavours of Speyside-style whisky are at the forefront, yet enhanced by the fresh new twist of deliciously innovative ingredients.

The traditionalist

The rusty hues of an Old Fashioned look like autumn in a glass. Bobby Hiddleston, bartender and co-founder of Swift Bar in Soho, London, adds a further seasonal twist to this absolute classic by swapping out the slightly summery citrus of orange for the earthy October flavours of plum and pear.

“The delicacy of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old is enhanced by the autumnal notes of the pear, and the umeshu [Japanese plum liqueur] adds a subtle tartness that rounds the drink really well. It’s a fantastically approachable way to drink scotch in cocktails,” says Hiddleston. Mix one up on a blustery evening at home, or pop into his Soho establishment and ask for it at the bar.

How to make it

Mix in a glass 50ml The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, 25ml umeshu, 10ml crème de poire and add two dashes of lemon bitters for the tart kick of a classic old fashioned. Add a big cube of ice and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

The socialite

Espresso Martinis are so last season. Instead, try a warming batch of Spiced Speyside Coffee, the ultimate whisky cocktail when you have friends over. This one’s made for long nights chatting by the fire, or a delicious pick-me-up as group energy levels start to waiver.

“The character of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old stands up to the flavour of the coffee, while the hint of cayenne pepper complements the spice of the single malt,” says The Glenlivet’s head of heritage and education Alex Robertson.

Spiced Speyside coffee

 Spiced Speyside coffee, made with The Glenlivet 12 Year Old.

How to make it

For intimate autumnal gatherings, whip up a batch for four. Take 160ml of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, 60ml coffee syrup, 40ml sugar syrup, 300ml americano coffee, and ½ tsp cayenne pepper. Mix together in a warmed glass jug. Pour into four long-stemmed glasses, and top with lightly whipped double cream, drained over a spoon into each glass to form a layer on top. Garnish with chocolate flakes and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.

The denier

As the rays of a low sun stream through the trees, crack out the blender for a cocktail that blends the last throes of summer with the chilly days of autumn. Dubbed The Glenlivet Colada by whisky writer Felipe Schrieberg, the pineapple juice works nicely with the flavour profile of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve – which is selectively finished in Caribbean rum barrels – and whispers a faint memory of warmer days, while the warm hit of cinnamon brings in the smoky-sweet hint of autumn.

“Pina coladas are my (not very) guilty pleasure, any season, and using a gentle, sweeter whisky like The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve serves as a perfectly lovely substitute for rum,” says Schrieberg, who is currently running virtual whisky masterclasses all autumn over Zoom.

How to make it

Add 50ml of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve to 120ml pineapple juice, 60ml coconut cream, a dash of bitters, and a splash of cinnamon syrup. Pulse together in a blender with crushed ice. Garnish with pineapple leaves and a stick of cinnamon.

The nightcap

As the nights draw in, cuddle up on the sofa with a calming nightcap. The Glenlivet’s Small Voice of Calm cocktail is a soothing mix of chamomile, whisky and lemon: the perfect tonic after a long day of video calls and endless emails.

“The floral notes in The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve are brought out by the chamomile, while the sharp lemon notes complement the sweetness of the whisky,” says Robertson.

A small voice of calm

 A Small Voice of Calm, made with The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve.

How to make it
Pour 50ml The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, 25ml chamomile syrup, and 10ml lemon juice into a cocktail shaker and lightly shake to mix the ingredients. Strain over cubed ice in a short glass and top up with 100ml chilled soda water. Garnish with chamomile flowers or a wedge of lemon.

The hand warmer

As the cold weather draws in, the temptation is to stay indoors. Stick the kettle on and rustle up some company – a luxurious Hot Toddy. Served in an enamel mug, it’s like a tiny hot-water bottle for your hands and warms your insides. This is a favourite of whisky writer and Instagrammer The Whisky Lady, AKA Anne-Sophie Bigot.

“As the temperatures drop, autumn is all about warming up and being cosy, and for me whisky cocktails are definitely part of the equation. A good scotch hot toddy on the couch, sat by a crackling woodfire is a must. It screams autumn vibes to me,” says Bigot.

How to make it
Best built in an enamel mug, take 50ml of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, add 15ml lemon juice and 15ml ginger syrup for a spicy kick. Swirl together with a couple of dashes of bitters. Top with hot water and garnish with a slice of lemon studded with cloves for that sweet, peppery aroma that whispers of frosty nights.

The Glenlivet is the original Speyside single malt, setting new standards since 1824. Explore the range here

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