Atholl Brose: The Drink for all your Candlemas Libations

Mmm...such creamy lusciousness!

Mmm…such creamy lusciousness!  No idea where I stole this photo from, sorry.

I’d never heard of Atholl Brose before I joined up with Hartwood grove. Our High Priestess has a great tenure with the Society for Creative Anachronism and, as such, has picked up some truly medieval odds and ends she’s tucked into her practice. One of them is making Atholl Brose as the liquid libation for Candlemas.  It’s a Scottish drink that’s been around in some form or another since at least the late 1400s.  And man, is this oldie a goodie.  All I can say is that it’s a good thing we only make it for Candlemas, or else we’d all be big as houses! It’s got the eye-rolling goodness of sweet cream augmented by field honey, fortified by oat brose, and tempered with the slow burn of a whisky. I dare anyone not to fall in love.

The traditional recipes I have found have 7 parts oatmeal brose to 7 parts whisky along with 5 parts cream and 1 part honey. However, our proportions in Soma Sidhe are more like 2 parts brose, 2 parts cream, and 1 part honey, and then every individual adding whisky to taste.  This is a bit too sweet for me, so I halve the honey.  (And if I’m drinking it virgin, I add more brose to my portion.)

Oatmeal brose is, for all intents and purposes, oat milk. However, it’s oat milk without any salt, sweeteners, or any other flavorings. Therefore, I think it’s best to make this yourself rather than buying a carton of oat milk at your local health-conscious grocery. To make the drink from start to finish, here is what I do:

Atholl Brose

To make approximately 2 cups brose:

  • 1 cup oats*
  • Filtered water
  • Blender, fine sieve, muslin cloth

*Any type of oats are fine:  quick, old-fashioned, or steel-cut.  However, if using steel cut, it really is best to soak them overnight.  If you want to be fancy, toast them before hand.

Place at least 1 cup of oats into a blender with three cups of water and blend for perhaps five minutes or so.  Let the mixture sit for a few minutes, then pulse again.  Strain the pulp through a bouillon strainer, a nut milk bag, or a cheesecloth lined colander and let the liquid drain away from the pulp until you have at least 2 cups of brose or oat milk.  The liquid should be opaque and about as thick as 1 or 2% milk.

To make the finished drink:

  • 1/2-1 cup honey
  • 2 cups brose
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • approximately 2 cups whisky

Pour 1/2-1 cup of honey into a Pyrex bowl or measuring cup and microwave for a minute or until the honey is runny but not hot.  Pour the honey into a blender and add the 2 cups of brose.  (Optional: a pinch of salt can also be added at this time if desired.)  Blend until the honey is fully dissolved, then add 2 cups of heavy cream and pulse a couple times to incorporate.  (Do not blend long, lest you turn your drink into butter.)

Adding whisky to the whole lot can make it curdle if it sits for very long or is refrigerated.  Therefore, I prefer to add the spirits just prior to serving.  If adding whisky to the whole batch, stir 2 cups of whisky in.  Alternately, let everyone add whisky to taste to their own portion.

Obviously, bourbon could be used here, too.  Bear in mind, though, that this is not a beverage helped by a fine single-malt, so don’t waste the really good stuff.  In fact, atholl brose does amazing things to really cheap whisky.  In the $10 paint stripper stuff from Costco pictured below, it brought out tons of vanilla, oak, and snickerdoodle notes.  If you are wanting a single-malt, I would caution you to stay away from the peaty, smokey whiskies.  Milder singles like Glen Morangie or The Macallan would be about right for this application…although entirely overkill.   Slàinte Mhath!

The atholl brose I made for this Candlemas, along with a Brigit statue that was my birthday present this past year.

The atholl brose I made for this Candlemas, along with a Brigit statue that was my birthday present this past year.

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