- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I freely admit, I didn’t know much about Drambuie, so when I was entreated to test out some cocktails by D.C. brand ambassador Vance Henderson, I was intrigued to learn, well, anything about this beverage, whose name I only knew once via a “Simpsons” reference.

Vance and I sit down at Bin 1301 along Northwest’s U Street Corridor to discuss the particulars of this liqueur, which was founded in 1746. Drambuie is basically aged scotch that has been infused with honey, herbs, spices. (Think of it this way: As gin is to vodka, so Drambuie is to scotch.)

It also boasts a bit of a colorful history. Prince Charles Edward Stuart — better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie — found himself on the lam after a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Culloden, thereby ending any hopes the Stuarts had of reclaiming their mantle atop the throne of Great Britain. Stuart was pursued by the king’s forces across the Scottish Highlands, and eventually found refuge with Clan MacKinnon, whose chief, John MacKinnon, helped the prince to escape capture. To thank MacKinnon for his kindness, the legend has it that the prince handed over the secret recipe of his family’s personal liqueur — one which the MacKinnons would hand down over the generations.

It’s a colorful tale, and one that brings Drambuie right up to the 21st century as it makes inroads not only in District bars, but across the country. Vance tells me that the Rusty Nail, featuring Drambuie and whiskey with a lemon twist, was a favored elixir of the Rat Pack, and thus gave Drambuie a bit of 1950s and ‘60s heyday thanks to Sinatra and his boys all enjoying it over ice.

I typically like to try a new booze neat, and so it’s my first step into Drambuie. My thoughts are that it’s OK, and perhaps maybe a bit too sweet and heavy to enjoy neat or even over ice on its own. However, Vance also has me try out the 15 Year, which is super nice neat, and what Vance calls the “hidden gem” of their product line.

To get more out of the experience, Vance suggest we move on to cocktails. He has me try out a Drambuie Collins, which is refreshing and boasts just a hint of mint on its after-palate. A pairing I truly didn’t expect to find is the Drambuie Sangria, which mixes Drambuie, orange juice, red wine and simple syrup. Great for a hot summer like the one we’re having.

Getting my Rat Pack on, I try out the Rusty Nail, made here with Drambuie and Monkey Shoulder scotch and featuring a lemon twist. I practically feel my vocal chords improving with every sip.

Another cocktail Vance has the 1301 barkeep put afore me is the La Creme, which is Drambuie, Monkey Shoulder, maraschino and espresso. I’m not usually a coffee drinker, and, as I feared, the bite of that bean continues to haunt my taste buds, even in a mixture such as this.

But I must say the positives of trying out Drambuie in the various mixture permutations outweighs the pulling back I instinctively do at the coffee taste. In fact, there appear to be as many ways to enjoy this singular liqueur as the imagination might allow, and ones to which I look further to exploring.

It’s another object lesson in keeping your mind open to new experiences.

To learn more, visit Drambuie.com.

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