To create something special for the holidays this year, San Jose-based bartender Mary Palac found inspiration in poet Robert Burns’ classic 18th century Scottish song, “Auld Lang Syne.”
She was particularly struck by the line: “We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.”
“I started thinking about how many of us would love to fast forward into 2021 and that made me think of the holidays, New Year’s especially,” says Palac. “The holidays have always been special to me—I’m a December baby—and I don’t want to skip over them, no matter how hard it is.”
At the heart of her drink is Aberlour A’bunadh Alba, a cask-strength single malt Scotch that is aged in used American oak bourbon barrels and is only available in the U.S. It’s release follows Aberlour’s wildly successful original A’bunadh, which is also cask strength but is aged exclusively in former sherry casks. The different types of barrels make a huge difference and create two delicious and distinctive whiskies.
When Palac tried A’bunadh Alba for the first time, she was surprised by its “creamy characteristic” and “bright and fresh” fruit flavors.
“I decided to lean into that creamy element,” she says. “It reminded me of a peach cobbler, and I amplified the fruit flavors with a little crème de pêche.”
To balance the sweetness of the crème de pêche and add a bit of depth to the drink, Palac also mixes in a touch of amaro and a dash of Chinese five-spice bitters, which give it “a really familiar and warming spice.” There’s also a measure of blanc vermouth in the cocktail.
It’s a great option for holiday feasts and pairs well with fruit-filled desserts, like peach cobbler and custards, caramel and pecan pie (à la mode, of course).
Aberlour A’bunadh Alba
“I think Scotch, and particularly A’bunadh Alba works best in this cocktail,” she says, “because I was trying to capture the warmth you feel when you have loved ones nearby.”
You’ll first and foremost want a good mixing glass—Palac prefers Cocktail Kingdom’s Paddle Mixing Glass. “I like to get a larger glass—it’s great for making multiple drinks all at once,” she says. She also recommends the Hoffman bar spoon (“It just looks great in the glass as you swirl around your cocktail”), the Japanese Style Jigger (“for ease and speed”) and the two-pronged Koriko Hawthorne strainer (“so it doesn’t fall into the mixing glass”) in copper or gold.
Paddle Mixing Glass
Japanese Style Jigger
Koriko Hawthorne Strainer
By Mary Palac
- 1.5 oz Aberlour A’bunadh Alba Single Malt Scotch
- .5 oz Blanc vermouth
- .25 oz Italian amaro
- .25 oz Crème de pêche
- 1 dash Five-spice bitters
- GLASS: Rocks
- GARNISH: Lemon twist
Add all of the ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir, and strain into a rocks glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon twist.