An evening at Johnnie Walker provides Morag Bootland with springtime cocktail inspiration
The city smelled of springtime as I made my way towards the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh city centre.
It was the first day that really felt as if we were heading beyond the gales and eternal grey of winter.
This was made all the more exciting by the fact that I was heading for a long overdue visit to Johnnie Walker Princes Street.
The whisky behemoth opened its doors in the old Frasers store over six months ago and I’d been told countless times that a trip to the rooftop bar was a must. ‘You simply must see the bar’, they said.
So, resisting the urge on arrival to say, ‘I must see the bar’, I slipped in through the doors that used to lead to Frasers’ beauty department and prepared to embark on a tour, followed by a special dinner event celebrating ‘Flavours from the Four Corners of Scotland’, but more about that later.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure, but the tour was really fast paced and interesting.
I loved the interactivity and the fact we moved around through lots of state-of-the-art and beautifully designed rooms as we were guided through the story of Johnnie Walker whisky. There is certainly plenty here to hold the interest of even the most reluctant whisky drinker.
The lighting was particularly impressive, only added to by the spring sunshine pouring through the huge windows overlooking Princes Street or stretching over to the Firth of Forth.
Luckily there was time for a drink in the bar before dinner and it was indeed well worth it.
Sipping on a whisky cocktail I watched the sun set behind the West End and marvelled in the incredible views on this perfectly clear evening of Edinburgh Castle, all the way up Lothian Road and along Princes Street to Leith. I couldn’t help but feel that despite my arrival at the bar being belated it was perfectly timed.
Ahead of dinner we heard from Johnnie Walker Global Brand Ambassador Tim Philips-Johansson, Diageo’s Head Chef in Residence Mark Moriarty and Head Bartender Miran Chauhan. They introduced us to the cocktails and small bowls of food that we were about to be served.
Kicking off proceedings with a Johnnie Walker Black Label pineapple and cardamom soda we were presented with a delicate bowl of chicken liver, passion fruit, pineapple and coffee. The rich liver pate was delicious but was crying out for an oatcake.
Next came a Bread and Butter old fashioned served with a huge cube of ice, this was sweet and boozy in equally delicious measures and was served with Poached and lightly cured salmon, bbq butter, apple and oscietra caviar. I loved the freshness of this dish, the sweetness of the cocktail balancing the sharp apple.
The main course was accompanied by a Blackcurrant and ancho kir, Ribena for grown-ups, this one took me back to my childhood, especially when enjoyed with a Compote of Highland deer shoulder, pear, turnip and horseradish. The deer was rich and deliciously meaty and perfect with the berry flavours of my drink. Combined with the sweet pear, earthy turnip and fiery horseradish it really was a delight.
But it was the final cocktail of the evening that really stole the show. Again, drawing on a heavy dose of nostalgia it arrived resembling a coke float.
But was Glenkinchie 12, wild elderberry and Guinness reduction, with its crowning glory being a sublime Lagavulin ice cream. Heaven. Pud was a beautiful wee bowl of incredibly sweet Honey vanilla caramel custard with redcurrant, hazelnut and sorrel. It lasted only slightly longer than the cocktail. I certainly won’t wait another six months until I’m back at the bar.
Find out more at Johnniewalker.com