Rabbie Burns Night 2020 in the USA: What to drink and where to celebrate the Bard of Scotland

One of the finest single malts you can toast the bard of Scotland with on Rabbie Burns Night, Laphroaig 30 Year Ian Hunter edition. Pic credit: Laphroaig.
One of the finest single malts you can toast the bard of Scotland with on Rabbie Burns Night, Laphroaig 30 Year Ian Hunter edition. Pic credit: Laphroaig.

Full disclosure: Monsters & Critics received free samples of the products mentioned in this article for review. However, the opinions expressed are independent and our own.

Robbie or Rabbie Burns Night is the celebration of Robert Burns’ life and poetry, and it takes place every year on January 25.

The tradition started shortly after Burns’ death, passing away at age 37, when his friends vowed to celebrate his life every year on July 21 – the date of his death. But over the years it became a tradition to celebrate Burns Night on his birthday.

From Edinburgh to Boise, Idaho, Burns Night (or known as the Burns Supper) is now an annual celebration of poet and writer Robert Burns and of mother Scotland herself.

Scotland’s 18th-century Romantic poet was a gifted man many felt was ahead of his time in his egalitarian views of humanity, and to honor him, we feast in his name. Tonight all over the world where Scottish blood dwells, the bard of Scotland’s birthday is celebrated, this January 25.

What is Rabbie Burns or Robert Burns Night?

A feast and toast to the man who co-penned Auld Lang Syne and many poems. A typical Burns Night celebration is centered on food, fine single malt and recitations of Burns’s clever verse.

Rabbie Burns quotes and poem extracts at Burns Night celebrations often have the host or event organizer reciting Burns’ Selkirk Grace.   This – like most of his verses – are written and recited in Scottish dialect:

Some hae meat an canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat, and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Some of the traditional Scottish dishes like haggis are served up on the menu, and the finest single malts are dusted off and drammed to serve up.

Traditional music is also part of Burns’ birthday bash, as Scottish culture is celebrated from Scotland to all points where the “blood sailed away,” as Scottish band The Proclaimers penned in the lyrics of their song Letter From America.

Burns Night is capped off in the evening with a proper Burns Supper. Each supper, casual or fancy, varies a bit in menu but certain features are to be expected: Scottish delicacies like the famous haggis, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), accompanied with the readings of Burns’ verse, and a night of Scottish music and Scottish songs.

The big toast is traditionally done with a very fine single malt whisky as we remember how much Burns means to the people of Scotland. Burns’ genius elevated the Scottish dialect and has influenced people the world over, from William Wordsworth, JD Salinger, Percy Shelley, John Steinbeck to singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan.

What is haggis?

This mystery meat of Scotland is often times the butt of jokes, but it’s lovely, to be honest. We have eaten it more than once and it tasted like a savory dense oatmeal with loads of flavors.

This national dish is officially described as a pudding made of liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep or other animal, which is minced and mixed with beef or lamb fat and oatmeal and seasoned with onion and spices. Stay with me, it’s better than it sounds in the official ingredient list.

The mixture is then traditionally packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled but many chefs forgo that step these days. It’s important to note that imported Scottish haggis is banned because of the lung bits, but you can find chefs across America who make it here from scratch.

What single malt scotch is worthy of a toast?

We recommend relative newcomer Laphroaig 30 Year Aged Islay Single Malt Whisky, the Ian Hunter Story edition.

This is a stunner of a pour and imbues all the perfect notes of a well-aged scotch in a burnished gold presentation.

Annually Monsters & Critics visits several distilleries in Scotland to check out how the magical elixir is made and we were in Scotland this past November when we sampled it on a scotch tasting tour with Ronnie Berri, Keeper of the Quaich. Sampling over 50 single malts, this particular one stood out head and shoulders.

This single malt is a 30 year cask strength beauty aged in American oak, the legacy of Ian Hunter at the Laphroaig distillery, hence the name.

This single malt is matured solely in ex-bourbon barrels and has the roundness that balances the smoke and peat in a way no other Laphroaig we’ve had does.

It’s honeyed and floral, peaty and peppery, in all just a phenomenal scotch experience. The cost is quite pricey but for die-hard scotch lovers, a worthy investment.

Where can we celebrate Robbie Burns Night in the USA?

From San Francisco to Boise to New York City, Americans will gather tonight to celebrate “Rabbie” Robbie Burns Night.

In San Francisco, there are several restaurants hosting the special menu and scotch toast.

The non-profit club New York Caledonian Club has listed where to officially enjoy Burns’ Night celebration in the Big Apple.

Over in Milford, West Orange and Kearny, New Jersey, The Scots American Club and other area restaurants have fun dinners planned.

And in Boise, Idaho, a large Scottish American population dwells, rubbing shoulders with the country’s largest Basque population. Who would have thought?

The 117th annual Robert Burns Night is a no-miss event at The Riverside Hotel in Boise.

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