Whisky Bars and Signature Serves

Crafting that serve to make that experience special
By Ryan Chetiyawardana
One of the most fantastic things that has happened alongside the growing interest in whisky has been the ease and regularity in which one can enjoy an amazing dram. When I was living in Scotland I took for granted having a great selection in my local pub and bar. They tended to offer more than the standard 'big five' (which are great, but variety being the spice of life and all) and they tended to be well priced. When I ventured into bars in the rest of the UK (abroad varied massively ­- from the sprawling rarities I found in Japan, to the 'whiskies' I found in Azerbaijan) I was often disappointed to find ageing bottles that contained oxidised examples of those old favourites.

Now, not only do many bars stock a decent selection, there are plenty of specialist shops that give a much wider range to take home - let alone the incredible selection offered online. Of course, alongside this are the huge varieties of ways in which to enjoy your favourite whiskies. I'm obviously a supporter of whisky in cocktails, and as mentioned here many times, I love finding new occasions in which to enjoy my favourite drams. A simple whisky and soda is a common staple in my house, but opening up and discovering new sides to a whisky through a cocktail is a constant source of joy.

However, sometimes it's fun to have a serve that puts you in a place that you couldn't have created yourself. This is of course the appeal of going to a restaurant. In part it's about enjoying something you wouldn't - or couldn't - craft yourself, but it's also about having the setting, service and magic of a restaurant or bar to make the experience extra special.

On that note, there's a few spots that I feel are doing some really interesting things with whisky. These are settings and serves that not only are very difficult to replicate at home (well, except for the dedicated who are also happy to cook from the Noma or Fat Duck cookbook), but create a special feeling that showcases the whisky at its heart in a way that makes the whole experience seem a bit more special.

One of the ones I've been very impressed with (of course objectively) has come closer to home and showcases a side of a favourite whisky in a very different way. Robin Honhold - manager at White Lyan - put together a cocktail based around Highland Park 12 that brings a very different dimension to the whisky. The beginning is a house fermented gooseberry wine that is arrested using the whisky, and aged on the lees. This is then diluted with rehydrated red fruits. The serve adheres to the bar's ethos of control, but gives a hugely innovative take on a Rob Roy. The 'Magnus Reserve' showcases Highland Park in a way that not only highlights the house sweet, floral smoky style, but adds a nutty and sharp textural element.

At Lucky Liquor in Edinburgh, Terri Brotherston and Matt Cox created a playful and approachable take on a Nikka Blended whisky serve called 'Purest Green' using lemon and Hales Green Cream Soda. Bright green and served with 'bubblegum bubbles', the drink is both playful, and a wonderful exploration of the whisky.

Monica Berg of Pollen St Social created a serve around one of my favourite whiskies - Talisker 10 - to suit different moods and reflect the season. As with any great whisky serve, it highlights the different idiosyncrasies of the whisky, and here showcases how the whisky can be enjoyed at different times of the year (or day). The bottle serve, called 'Seasons by the Sea' presents different waters to cut your whisky, each infused to reflect the season; spring features the ocean by infusing nori and sea salt; summer is warmer and fruitier with pear and pineapple; autumn moves richer into black pepper and grains of paradise; whilst winter harks back to the hearth using lapsang, jasmine and heather.

Seek, take inspiration and enjoy!

The cocktails

Magnus Reserve


  • 800ml Highland Park 12

  • 500ml House-fermented gooseberry wine

  • 480ml Rehydrated red fruit

Purest Green


  • 50ml Nikka Blended

  • 15ml Hales Green Cream Soda

  • 12.5ml Lemon Juice

Shake and double strain. Serve in Coupette.

Bubblegum Bubbles

Seasons by the Sea

Serve Talisker bottle on a plate alongside kelp and seaweed, with oyster shells containing pipettes of infused waters. Serve under a cloche atomised with cedarwood.