Another amazing alcohol company has asked my humble opinion on their delicious elixir of fun, frivolity and fun times.
This time, it was from one of my favourite whiskies, Johnnie Walker. However, they were less concerned with my mixology prowess and more inquisitive about my thoughts on food pairings for their whisky.
When they first asked about which foods I would pair with Johnnie Walker Red, I had to actually, physically slap my hand away from the keyboard before typing “steak”. That would have been such a prosaic answer, I was ashamed my brain even thought it. Steak and whisky? Why not say coffee and cake or white wine and fish? Why don’t I just rename my blog to “Luke’s Amateur Hour” and be done with it?
These guys know that red meat goes brilliantly with whisky. That’s probably all they serve in their canteen. They don’t need some food hobbyist telling them what they already know.
So I took a step outside of the box and thought of pairings that you wouldn’t think go well together on paper, but in a real, corporeal way they just complement each other so well, it’s hard to enjoy one without the other once you’ve tried them together.
I was going to suggest a few desserts, but they pipped me to the post with their suggestion of charred peaches. That, with a little bit of maple syrup… sweet Jebus. It’s a revelation.
No, I needed to step even further out of the box. I needed outlandish. I needed to get something to eat and a bottle of whisky. This was going to call for some research.
They generously obliged with the drinks and I made plans to head over to North Berwick. I had a plan in mind.
A little bit of background for everyone who isn’t keeping up with East Scottish geography, North Berwick is a small town on the coast of Scotland. It’s about 25 miles away from Edinburgh and is the hometown of The Noodle. It’s one of those gorgeous seaside towns that, if dressed appropriately, there is no weather you can’t endure.
Usually, people associate walking on beaches with sunset, a light breeze and the lapping on the shore. In North Berwick, there is something extremely romantic about walking along the shoreline in heavy Timberland boots, a great coat buttoned up to your chin as the wind whips the sea into a frenzy. You can look out at the gunmetal grey sky to the stoic sight of Craigleith. It really is quite beautiful.
In this little town, there is a little restaurant. I didn’t just describe it as such for poetic reasons. It’s a tiny restaurant. It’s about the size of a decent garage. It’s called The Rocketeer and it serves some of the homeliest, freshest and most delicious seafood I have ever had the courtesy of enjoying.
The first time I went there, it was a lovely day and so it was quite busy. After queuing for some time, we got to the front and were informed that they had run out of mussels. We were, in a word, devastated. I was extremely hungry and the food looked and smelled amazing.
While we were pondering our next course of action, a noise behind us caught my attention. A boat had docked nearby and a gruff, seaworthy gentleman was walking up with his hands full of nets. Thinking it was just another aspect of this quaint town, I paid it no mind. Until the lady behind the counter informed me that they had just received a delivery of fresh mussels and, if we were willing to wait, they would be ready in a few minutes.
That is how fresh the food is. They don’t run out of mussels until the sea runs out of them.
Let me tell you, it was worth the wait. They were incredible. In fact, just look at them…
And look at that view. We found a seat up in some rocks a short walk up and just took in the day.
If you’re heading anywhere near Edinburgh on your travels, I can’t endorse this place any more fervently. But, check ahead. Because it’s mainly outdoor seating, if the weather is looking particularly treacherous, they sometimes need to shut up shop.
So, how does this link to whisky and food?
Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?
Whisky and mussels make an incredible gastronomical partnership. But not just any glass of whisky.
The heat of drinking straight whisky will kill the soft flavour of the mussels. This calls for an equally light and subtle cocktail. Possibly involving some citrus (because fish and lemon is a no brainer).
This calls for a whisky sour.
The warmth of the whisky is dulled slightly by the ice and it just prepares your tongue for the creamy sauce, meaty fish and herbal infusion coming from the mussels. It’s basically a delicious, complementary palate cleanser.
You can taste each and every individual ingredient as they find their taste buddy and start dancing across your tongue.
Word of Warning!
The first time I made a whisky sour, it was an unmitigated disaster. At the time, I had no idea why. I think the main reason was because I was just winging it. I made it with a couple of ingredients and a boatload of guesswork.
After doing a little bit of research, I discovered the source of my error. It was all in the shake. I had, like an idiot, thrown the ice cubes in with the lot and lightly shaken it. So I ended up with an eggy, sour mess. I needed to do, what is known as, a dry shake. Despite the obvious misnomer (the shaker was full of liquid), a dry shake is actually just done without ice in the shaker.
When you shake a cocktail which included egg white with ice, the violent tumbling of the ice cubes knocks all of the air out of the froth you’re trying to create. So it just ends up being a slop.
After even further research, I found that there was an even better way to do this. It’s imaginatively called a Reverse Dry Shake.
This time, you shake it first with the ice cubes in. They, you get the ice cubes out (I’d suggest roughly straining into a large glass, pouring the ice you used into your glass and then pouring the cocktail back into the same shaker). Then you give it one hell of a shake. You know those paint shaking machines at DIY stores? Channel your inner paint shaking machine.
So, here’s the drink:
Quickly, you’re probably wondering why there are pistachio kernels in that picture, that’s because I made mine with pistachio washed whisky. But that’s for another post.
Double Shot of Johnnie Walker Whisky
Juice of Half a Lemon
1 Teaspoon White Sugar
1 Egg White
- In the bottom of the shaker, squeeze in your lemon and stir in your sugar
- Fill your shaker with ice, pour in your egg and Johnnie Walker
- Close it up, vigorously shake
- Open it up, fandangle your ice cubes out of there. Use those ice cubes in your glass, no need to be wasteful
- Close it up and shake the ever loving crap out of it. Throttle it like it owes you money
- Strain over your ice using a Hawthorne strainer. Sometimes, no matter how hard you’ve shaken it, there can be unfoamed egg whites in your drink. They won’t kill you, but will take some of the joy out of a mouthful or two
- Grab some napkins and a good wedge of crusty, seeded bread. Maybe a rye, even a sourdough will do
- Go to town on some mussels and wash them down with a swig of your delicious whisky sour