Fancy a drink? Our drinks columnist Sam Wylie-Harris suggests some whisky and wines to mark the birth date of poet Robert Burns
Burns Night tipples
Celebrated the world over, Burns Night - the birth date of poet Robert Burns - is always the perfect excuse for a Scottish-themed party, but this year, with January 25 landing on a Saturday, there's even more reason to roll out the tartan carpet.
To welcome guests, a pre-dinner cocktail will help get everyone into the spirit (especially those who've been abstaining in January...). For the right flavour with whisky-cured smoked salmon, try mixing a drink with The Black Grouse, Famous Grouse (£17.95, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com) - its soft, peaty flavours with apple, spice and smoky notes will even appeal to 'non-whisky' drinkers.
:: Smoked Orchard
25ml Black Grouse, 1 wedge of fresh lime, cranberry juice, apple juice
Half-fill a highball glass with ice. Add the whisky, squeeze the lime wedge into the glass and top with equal measures of cranberry juice and apple juice. Stir and serve with two cranberries.
Fans of malt whiskies which hail from the rich, full bodied flavour camp should try a wee dram of Old Harry 8 Year Old Malt Whisky (£25, 70cl, www.laithwaites.co.uk) which pairs well with the prunes and slight sweetness of cock-a-leekie soup. A blended malt from different distilleries, the sweet, fruity palate with orange peel, spice and a light peatiness has enough depth to last until the haggis is piped in.
A smidgen more aged, Waitrose 10 Year Old, Speyside (£23.20 from £29, from January 22 to February 11, 70cl Waitrose) single malt is matured in bourbon and sherry oak casks and with the scents of orchard fruits, a malty, creamy, spicy sweetness and Speyside grassy characteristics, this limited edition offers great value for money.
Vintage malts come at a premium, but for special occasions like this (after all, it is the biggest knees-up in the Scottish calendar) Balblair 2003 (£40.25, 70cl, www.thewhiskyexchange.com) is a pale beauty with a full-on floral nose and hints of butterscotch and toffee from the influence of ex-bourbon barrels and a rich mouthfeel of tropical fruits, honey and spice.
If whisky really isn't your thing, don't despair, there are plenty of other tipples to match a Highland feast.
A white wine punctuated with grapefruit and gooseberry not only makes a refreshing aperitif but can also be served with smoked fish starters as well as the soup. Try a sauvignon/semillon blend such as Finest Boranup Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012, Western Australia (£9.99, Tesco) with a herbaceous nose, zesty, citrus fruit and a flinty minerality on the finish.
When it's time for the main event, a red wine with gusto will also complement the haggis, neeps and tatties (swede and mashed potato).
Try the rich, warm and plummy Saint Roch Cotes du Roussillon, France (£6.99, Morrisons) made from a blend of low-yielding, old vine syrah and grenache. Punching above its weight, this wine has enough depth of flavour to go with Scotch beef with peppercorn sauce as well as the peppery stuffing and gravy.
North east of Madrid, nestled in the south west corner of the Spanish province of Zaragoza, the Calatayud wine growing region is famous for its garnacha (grenache) which produces big, bold reds with massive flavours of blackberries and spice such as Pena Garnacha 2011, Spain (£8.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk). With a deep, fruity nose, forest floor of black fruits and soft tannins, it's a perfect match with haggis.
Once the haggis is over though, it's time for the sweet stuff. For a contemporary twist to the end of the evening, why not serve a cocktail that's punchy in colour and flavour to go with cranachan, the Scottish dessert made from whipped cream, honey, fresh raspberries and oatmeal? Made with Chivas Regal 12 Year Old Whisky (£21.50, 70cl, Tesco), the Chivas opens up the taste buds before the sweetness and earthiness of the beetroot honey develops on the palate.
:: Chivas Scarlet Pimpernel
60ml Chivas 12 Year Old, 15ml Lillet Blanc, 5ml beetroot honey, 2 dashes of lemon bitters
To make the beetroot honey, peel fresh beetroot and then press through a centrifuge juicer to extract the juice. Put in a pan and reduce by half to create a caramel consistency. Once it coats the back of a spoon, allow to cool before mixing.
Half fill a mixing glass with ice. Pour in the whisky, Lillet Blanc, beetroot honey, lemon bitters and stir. Strain into a chilled flute and garnish with a twist of lemon.
:: Best buy
Come wine with me... Sometimes the most unassuming bottle can taste unexpectedly good and Chateau Tour Chapoux Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Bordeaux, France (£6.99 from £9.99, until January 21, Waitrose) is the perfect mid-week wine to enjoy with a goats cheese salad. Fresh and zingy with green leafy notes around a core of gooseberry and lime with a nice, crisp finish.
:: Liquid news
Rum renaissance... With the current turbulent weather, it's hardly surprising we're thirsting after a taste of some Caribbean winter sun, which could be why Brits are drinking more rum than ever,
In a recent survey, by Thebar.com drinks website (www.thebar.com), we're more likely to have a bottle of rum in our shopping baskets than champagne.
With this in mind, why not try mixing with Brugal 1888 (£39.35, www.thewhiskyexchange.com)? The fifth generation family have recently celebrated their milestone birthday and 125 years of producing this blend of fine rums aged between 5 to 14 years from the Dominican Republic.
Appreciated for its distinctively dry, woody profile and dried fruit character from ageing in oak and sherry casks, which lead to spicy flavours and hints of coffee beans on the long rich finish, Brugal golden rum is the number one rum in Spain, Europe's largest rum market.