Imagine a perfect day in Scotland. The mist is clearing off the rolling green hills, the sun is breaking through the clouds, it’s going to be a fantastic day. You spend the day fishing, or shopping, or golfing, or whatever floats your boat. Come middle of the afternoon it’s warm and you’re ready for a refreshing cocktail to start your evening off right. Would said cocktail include Scotch, ginger beer and lime? No? Well, might I suggest that it should. The reason I say this is easy, the Mamie Taylor, which I’ve taken my sweet time testing, is refreshing and delicious.
But, it’s more than that. It’s a combination of flavors that I wouldn’t have ever thought would go well together. However, in this mix, they’re really harmonious and play off each other very well. Let’s start our discussion with the spirit in this cocktail. Scotch is an interesting beast when it comes time to mix up a cocktail. There are so many options, each with it’s own nuances and particularities, which is why it makes sense to reach for a blend in most cocktail cases. With a blend you’re going to get, obviously, a blend of the flavors that make up the range of Scotch offerings. For me I reached for Johnnie Walker Black Label. It had the character I was looking for and the flavor worked really well in this drink. I tried Famous Grouse as well, but wasn’t as impressed.
There was something nagging on my mind though as I sipped my Mamie Taylor with Black Label. I wished it had just a touch of smoke. Simple enough I thought, I’ll make my next one with Ardmore and that should fix the problem. Not so. The resulting cocktail wasn’t undrinkable, but I jotted down in my notes one word that sums it up nicely. The drink was “funky.” Back to the drawing board and finally it came to me. I pulled down my bottle of Laphroaig Cask Strength and added 1/4 oz to the mix, making up the rest of the 2 oz with Black Label. It was one of those light bulb moments. The subtle smoke I was hoping for was there, but not overpowering or off-putting.
Now I moved on to the ginger beer. I tried a few different options and found that they are all pretty tasty. This week I’ve primarily been using Gosling’s ginger beer and found that it’s strong ginger punch was the other key to this drink. I’d say you can definitely go with either a ginger ale or ginger beer, but make certain that it’s got a good ginger component. Regular soft-drink style ginger ale isn’t the right choice here. It’ll be smothered by the Scotch.
As for lime juice I have two comments. One, and I hope I don’t have to tell you this, use fresh. Two, I bumped it up to 1 oz to add more sourness. If you’ve made your own ginger beer from the recipe I tried then this won’t be necessary as you’ll have a bit more sourness going in.
Last but not least, I was just reading an article about bitters in a recent issue of Imbibe Magazine. It was penned by cocktail master Paul Clarke and he mentioned something I would never have thought of (seems I need to do some more thinking about cocktails). Per Paul, orange bitters work really well with the flavors of Scotch. So, wanting to test that theory, I tossed a couple dashes in my last Mamie Taylor (the one I’m sipping right now, in fact). And, I can tell you Mr. Clarke is absolutely right. The flavor of the bitters plays extremely well with the scotch, ginger and lime and the bitterness further rounds out the balance of the cocktail. Definitely a worthy addition.
Mamie Taylor (Cocktail Hacker)
1 3/4 oz Johnnie Walker Black Label 1/4 oz Laphroaig Cask Strength 1 oz Lime Juice 6 oz Ginger Beer 2 Dashes Orange Bitters
1) Combine the Scotch, lime juice and bittes over ice 2) Fill with ginger ale 3) Garnish with a lime wedge
With that I’ll come to an end. Sadly, I’m guessing that, like me, it’s not summer in Scotland for you. But there’s good news. You can still mix up a Mamie Taylor and enjoy a refreshing, delicious cocktail. Cold, fall weather be damned. Enjoy, my friends.