Rugby and drinking go hand in hand, and you need look no further than The Famous Grouse’s long association with the Scottish national team to know that whisky and rugby are a natural combination.
My early rugby watching was done in sunny south London rather than the frozen north, so rugby for me was always associated with beer. Normally the warm flat stuff that men with beards drink – remember the Tetley’s Bitter Cup and Greene King as ‘official beer’ of the England rugby team? Even when I moved north, much of my rugby watching was accompanied by a plastic pint cup of lager for the Heineken Cup and occasionally Magners for the Celtic League, at least in part for its prominance on the shirts of Edinburgh and London Wasps in the mid-2000s.
Since then however, I have wrapped up warm for enough afternoons and evenings at Murrayfield and one particularly chilly November day on the Aberdeenshire coast where even the players came out to warm up in tin foil coats under sleeping bags. As a result I have developed an appreciative understanding of the use of the hip flask and the variety of concoctions it can contain.
The obvious choice for the hip flask is straight whisky, but with tastes differing so much from person to person as you pass it down a row of seats, it’s far safer to mellow the whisky with the addition of a drop of Drambuie, the ‘satisfying’ blend of malt whisky, honey, herbs and spices that was supposedly gifted to the Clan MacKinnon by Bonnie Prince Charlie after a hard day at Culloden in 1746.
The original version of the Nail actually dates from the golden sands of Hawaii in the 1940s and not the West Stand at Murrayfield on St Patrick’s Day 1990. Much like the Dry Martini, purists can argue for days about the ratio of whisky to Drambuie, but 3:1 is just about standard for your hip flask. It can also be served up, or over crushed ice as follows:
- Fill an old fashioned glass with crushed ice.
- Add a large measure of scotch whisky (traditionally a blend, but feel free to experiment) and a measure of Drambuie.
- Stir gently until frost forms on the outside of the glass.
- Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.
The Royal Nail is a luxurious alternative to the Rusty Nail, described by its creator, Simon Difford, as ‘two British Royals bittered by a yank’. It forgoes the Drambuie, uses Peychaud’s bitters for its mellowing, blending effect and was a staple of my hip flask during this summer’s wedding season. The Royal Nail can also be found ‘straight up’, but is more commonly served over ice:
- Add a large measure of premium blended whisky, a measure of Islay whisky and a single sploosh of Peychaud’s to a mixing glass.
- Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir well.
- Strain into an old fashioned glass over ice and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
The Galvanised Nail uses Drambuie, apple, lemon and elderflower to smooth the edges of the Scotch. Another Simon Difford creation, dating from 2003, it is usually served up:
- Add a large measure of blended whisky, half a measure of Drambuie, half a measure of apple juice, a quarter measure of elderflower liqueur and a quarter measure of lemon juice to a shaker.
- Fill with ice and shake well.
- Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.
The Cajun Nail is a mix between the Sazerac and the Rusty Nail, which uses whiskey instead of whisky, ramps up the Drambuie content and gives us another chance to practice our Absinthe Rinse. The Cajun Nail is best served over ice:
- Fill an old fashioned glass with ice, add half a measure of absinthe and top up with water.
- Add a large measure of whiskey, a large measure of Drambuie and three splooshes each of Angostura and Peychaud’s to a mixing glass.
- Fill with ice and stir well.
- Discard the absinthe water and ice (offer them to your customer separately if you wish).
- Strain into the absinthe rinsed glass over fresh ice and garnish with the oil from a twist of lemon, but discard the peel.