What The Dickins: A Tale Of Edinburgh City

How to Drink Whisky in a Non-Traditional Way

May is whisky month here in Scotland and we want to honour our beautiful national drink with a blog post and a competition, so we turned to Usquabae Bar & Restaurant since we are no whisky experts. Usquabae that means ‘water of life’ in Gaelic is a sophisticated and atmospheric establishment in the West End in Edinburgh with over 400 (!) whiskies to choose from and that distinct Scottish vibe perfect for a whisky bar and larder. They also serve delicious Scottish food to accompany those beautiful whiskies.

usquabae inside

Assistant Manager Michael kindly agreed to write a guest blog for us and give away a fabulous hour-long whisky tasting session for two people – so without further introductions, here is Michael’s very interesting blog about how to drink whisky in a non-traditional way. Make sure you scroll down until the end to find out how to enter the competition!

usquabae shop front

Drinking whisky in a non-traditional way

If there’s one question which gets asked in my bar more than any other it is, “How do you drink your whisky?” There is only one answer I give; it depends on my mood, and I list off the many different ways I like to enjoy whisky. Often this answer is a surprise to my guests, because I struggle to name another spirit out there that is perceived to be consumed so specifically as whisky; neat with the possibility of a couple of drops of water. However, with the resurgence of the whisky category over the last few years, the change in customer habits and the emergence of the modern bartender, perceptions of whisky consumption have changed. Although there will always be those who advocate for whisky only to be consumed neat, and although they are welcome to their opinion, I want to share a few of the non-traditional ways I like to take my whisky.

The Japanese influence

Whisky has rapidly spread itself across the globe over the past 150 years and now more countries than ever are not only enjoying it but producing it as well. One country that has perhaps embraced whisky more than any other is Japan. The popular Tory bars of Japan, established by Shinjiro Tori, who founded the first whisky distillery in Japan, were the go to places of the time and the most popular drink was the highball. The highball is a long drink where the whisky is lengthened with soda and lemon (scroll down for recipe). I find this not only deliciously refreshing but a great way to acclimatise your palate to whisky, especially if it is not always your spirit of choice.


Japan’s relationship with alcohol has traditionally focused on it being consumed with food and with the popularity of the highball, it is used as a great way to cleanse the palate – however with a couple of tweaks it can also make a great companion to food. Taking a light and floral whisky and using cucumber rather than lemon turns it into a fantastic drink to pair with a salad. Even taking back the spirit to its purest form, a smoky whisky with blue cheese or a richly sherried whisky with dark chocolate are excellent avenues to take your whisky experience into new territory.

Whisky cocktails

Whisky cocktails aren’t anything new but are often overlooked as a great way to enjoy whisky with a wide breadth of styles. The emergence of the cocktail in the famous hotel bars of America saw many classics develop which are enjoyed to this day: Manhattan, Sazerac, Old Fashioned etc. Since Bourbon was booming at the time, this was used as the base for these classics and it is perhaps a reason why today it is perfectly acceptable for it to be mixed with other spirits. Scotch whisky on the other hand was left in the glass on its own.

Thankfully there have been a swathe of bartenders to showcase how versatile single malt whisky is. One drink which does this outstandingly well is the Penicillin (scroll down for recipe). A terrific marriage of smoky whisky, ginger juice, honey and lemon. Not only is this delicious, it shows how versatile and flavoursome Scotch whisky can be when mixed with other ingredients.

Usquabae 2

Now there will be times when I call out for a whisky neat, however I am glad I can rest easily that there are many other ways to enjoy my favourite spirit.

The Seasonal Highball

Seasonal Highball

  • 50ml Hibiki Harmoy
  • Cucumber
  • Soda Water

Muddle two slices of cucumber at the base of a glass, add your whisky, ice and top up with soda. Garnish with two slices of cucumber.

The Penicillin


  • 50ml Laphroaig 10 Year Old
  • 20ml Lemon Juice
  • 15ml Fresh Ginger Juice/3 Slices of muddled ginger
  • Two teaspoons of Honey

Add ginger juice or muddle ginger in a shaker. Add the rest of your ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled glass filled with ice. Garnish with candied ginger or a slice of fresh ginger.

Win a Whisky Tasting for two!

The prize is an hour long, fully tutored whisky flight for two at Usquabae in Edinburgh. Included are four drams of Scottish whiskies each. The prize is valid for one year (until the 22nd of May 2018) and needs to be pre-booked.

The competition runs from noon on Monday the 15th of May until midnight on Sunday the 21st of May 2017. The giveaway is open to everybody over 18 in the UK, but keep in mind that the whisky flight takes place in Edinburgh. We will pick the winner within 24 hours after the competition has ended and contact the lucky person either through email or the social media platform they have used to enter the giveaway. This promotion is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

To be in with a chance to win the Tour of Scotland whisky tasting, choose one of the options below:

1. Like Usquabae & Dickins Facebook pages and share the competition post.

2. Follow Usquabae & Dickins on Twitter and retweet one of the competition tweets on the Dickins Twitter account.

3. Follow Usquabae & Dickins on Instagram and tag a friend on the competition post on the Dickins Instagram account.

Make sure you follow us on social media so you don’t miss out on our fabulous giveaways!


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