Though many think of Scotch as a cool – or even cold – weather drink, you can celebrate National Scotch Day on July 27 with a seasonably appropriate and cool Scotch cocktail.

And yes, using good Scotch in a cocktail is not an abuse of good Scotch.

“It used to be,” said David Ozgo, Chief Economist at the Distilled Spirits Council, “that people thought you should use a lesser quality spirit in cocktails. That’s just a carryover from the days of Prohibition when the alcohol was so bad that you had to add something to it to make it drinkable. “

After Prohibition, when better spirits came along, people assumed that drinking it straight was the way to go. “Now,” says Ozgo, “people recognize that a better-quality spirit will make for a better-quality cocktail.”

And people are definitely going for better-quality spirits. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, there has been tremendous growth in the “high end premium spirits” category. This trend is likely due to factors such as high consumer confidence in the economy and the growing preference among millennials for premium products.

Me, I’m more of an old school Scotch guy. Here are some good and enduring brands you can look for at almost any liquor store, including Binny’s in Elmwood Park and Famous Liquors in Forest Park.

 Glenlivet: A solid Scotch, Glenlivet is beloved by beginners as well as long-term Scotch drinkers (I would not turn down a wee drappie of it). It’s a top-seller across the country. Much Scotch has a peaty flavor (it tastes that way because Scottish barley is sometimes dried over peat fires); in Glenlivet, the peaty flavor is dialed way down. Priced competitively, you can pick up a 12-year-old Glenlivet for around $35.

 Macallan: This is my go-to Scotch, with very little peat apparent, mellow flavors, with single malt distinctiveness and a hint of sweetness and vanilla notes from aging in sherry casks. A bottle of Macallan 12-year-old goes for around $60…or you can buy a Macallan 60-year-old for around $35,000 (yes, that’s thousands!)

Ardbeg: A major mouthful of peat, Ardbeg is for those who love the flavor of smoky earth.  If you don’t like peat, I suggest you not even share a table with someone having an Ardbeg: it is highly aromatic. Beloved by Scotch enthusiasts, Ardbeg has won awards for World Whiskey of the Year and Scotch Whiskey of the Year.  An Ardbeg 10-year-old falls around $60.

If you you’d like to start a Scotch collection, these three will furnish a good foundation for stocking your liquor cabinet and they’ll also provide a fundamental education in the ways of this spirit.

Most people who drink Scotch are not opposed to adding a drop of water to the spirit to “open it up,” and I have found with many spirits that a little water will help the flavors emerge. In warmer months, we’d recommend adding a little water or even an ice cube (gasp!) to step down the intensity of the Scotch and render it more refreshing and less “hot.”  

So celebrate National Scotch Day with a good Scotch and maybe a squirt of soda; it can be as refreshing as any gin and tonic.

Join the discussion on social media!

David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...