What to eat and drink on Robbie Burns Day

Lia Grainger
Shine On
January 23, 2013

Dust off your kilts and get piping!

Robbie Burns Day is this Friday, and even if you don’t have Scottish blood coursing through your veins, that’s no reason not to indulge in the Scotch and Haggis infused revelry that is a Robbie Burns Day celebration.

For those in need of a refresher, Robert Burns was an eighteenth century Scottish poet, and is regarded in his home country as the greatest Scot ever. They actually had a contest and Burns won — apparently Scots are really into poetry. Burns is particularly loved because he wrote in the Scottish dialect. You may recall the opening lines of “To a Mouse” from high school English class:

“Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie!”

It’s about a scared mouse.

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If that’s not ringing any bells, you’ll surely recognize "Auld Lang Syne”, another Burns classic sung to this day at the stroke of midnight every New Year’s Eve. Scots celebrate Burns’ January 25th birthday every year with a traditional Robbie Burns Supper, and that tradition has made its way around the world.

If you’re thinking about throwing your own little Burns Supper, there are but two cornerstones of the meal: haggis and whiskey.

Haggis of course, is that much maligned Scottish delicacy, a savory pudding of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with onions and oatmeal and tidily encased in a sheep’s stomach.

Serving the haggis is the most important part of the Burns Supper. On it’s journey from kitchen to table, the Haggis is traditionally accompanied by a bagpiper in a kilt. Before ceremoniously cutting the stuffed organ from end to end and digging in, the host recites the Burns poem “Address to the Haggis”, which is exactly what it sounds like.

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While there’s no question that Burns adored Haggis, there’s also little doubt that it’s not for everyone.

For those looking to honour Burns’ spirit without ingesting sheep lung, there are a range of other tasty Scottish dishes to whip up, including Cullen Skink (smoked fish soup with leeks), Clootie pudding (a rich and cakey pudding), neeps and tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips), and Scottish oatcakes topped with smoked salmon.

And then of course, there’s the whiskey. On Burns Day, single malt whiskey is the drink of the hour, consumed without accoutrement. A few classic scotches include Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, and Glenrothes. Basically anything with a “Glen” at the beginning.

And if stabbing a Haggis and stocking up on hundred dollar bottles of whiskey seems like too much effort, nearly every Scottish bar and many of the Irish bars in town will be hosting their own Robbie Burns Night, usually complete with Haggis and whiskey tastings.

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