Burns' Night: hosting a flaming good celebration

By Ben Winstanley

- Last updated on GMT

Burns Night event ideas for UK pubs

Related tags Robert burns Whisky Scotch whisky

Burns’ Night is a hot opportunity to bring in customers and make a toast to the life of poet and lyricist Robert Burns. Ben Winstanley takes a look at how all types of venues can boost their GPs

When the friends of Robert Burns first gathered to commemorate the bard’s life and work, who could have known that two centuries later Burns’ Night would be a nationwide event filled with whisky, obligatory kilt wearing and talking to (nae, addressing) a haggis?

Circumstances aside, the on-trade is presented with a great opportunity on, or around, January 25 to attract punters for an evening of Scottish festivities and, above all, fun.

So how can you maximise your offer on Burns’ Night? We asked professionals from all corners of the industry to tell us about their plans.

The Gastropub

The Truscott Arms

The Jugged Hare

Top tips:​ Find a really good Haggis supplier and add value with a drinks pairing

Burns’ Night at the Truscott Arms is hosted by Hardeep Singh Kohli and is a feast of Scottishness. Partnering with a Scotch whisky brand, the venue will host a Burns’ Supper that includes cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps, tattties and cranachan to finish.

The haggis will, of course, be addressed, but a good haggis supplier is imperative — The Truscott Arms use Ramsay of Carluke, for example.

The evening will cost £75 per person, including a vertical tasting of Scotches to explore the differences between whisky vintages.

Co-owner of the Truscott Arms, Andrew Fishwick, says: “From a business perspective, the joy of our Burns’ Supper is it’s a relatively low-cost traditional meal that you don’t need to mess with. We add value by matching a Scotch or a cocktail so we are confident that the GP should be good.”

Meanwhile, ETM group-owned pub the Jugged Hare will host its rendition of a traditional Burns’ Night supper on Friday 29 January.

In true Burns style, a Scottish guest speaker and bagpiper Alan Henderson will pipe in and address the haggis, followed by a whisky toast to the bard.

Guests will then enjoy an authentic five-course menu from head chef, Stephen Englefield, where the iconic haggis takes centre stage in almost every dish and paired with a different fine wine. It will cost £65 per person.


The Cocktail Bar

Mr Foggs

The Adamson Bar

Top tips:​ Keep things classy and premium, book entertainment early and get inventive with cocktails

Inception Group’s flagship bar Mr Fogg’s is partnering with Glenmorangie to host the Bruton Lane bar’s Burns’ Night celebration.

Guests will be welcomed with a delightful performance from an extremely talented bagpiper before they are invited to toast the haggis with a glass of Glenmorangie 10 Year Old Original Whisky and enjoy haggis canapés.

The evening will then continue with a poetry recital that will, of course, showcase a selection of Robert Burns’ best works.

In true Scottish spirit, the household will be temporarily swapping its traditional uniforms for a range of suitably festive kilts with Mr Fogg’s male guests encouraged to sport sporrans and kilts too.

Inception Group marketing manager Simon Allison says:

“The advice we would offer to the on-trade is to partner with a whisky brand.

“It’s also a wise idea to book the entertainment as early as possible because, inevitably, the best bagpipers are likely to be booked up.

“I’d also suggest licensees keep the event classy and premium; there is nothing worse than a Burns’ Night party that’s planned with orange wigs and the like!

“Other than that, it’s best to target your marketing to your best Scottish guests and regulars. It’s a good idea to look to have affiliations with other premium Scottish brands, for example, Mr Fogg’s has partnered with [knitwear company] Pringle of Scotland in previous years.”

In Scotland, the infamous St Andrews establishment the Adamson Bar, will live up to its reputation of innovative ‘off the wall’ drinks with a pair of haggis cocktails: ‘For The Laddies’ and ‘For The Lassies’.

The Adamson Bar managing director Julie Lewis says: “We are using local spirits, Ogilvy Vodka, a potato-based vodka distilled in Angus in our ‘For The Laddies’ cocktail and Caorunn Gin, from Speyside, used in ‘For The Lassies’.

“We wanted to recreate one of the oldest cocktails, the Martini, while incorporating all the flavours of haggis. Each cocktail uses an egg white base to enhance the spice flavours, and includes nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper, mace and sugar.”

Mr Foggs

The Craft Beer Bar


Top tips:​ Burns' isn’t just for whisky

BrewDog continues to prove that Burns’ Night isn’t just for whisky and is hosting a variety of events across its sites to celebrate beer. In Soho, the craft beer brand will team up with Tempest Brewing from Tweedbank, Scotland, whose team will be in town to showcase its beers, which have been carefully selected to accompany three classic Scottish dishes. Graeme Martin from the brewery will be along for the dinner to talk about the beers. The experience will cost £35 per person.

In Brighton, BrewDog will host a whisky and beer pairing with Scottish snacks to accompany at £26 per person.


The Whisky Maker  

Isle of Arran distillers

Top tips:​ Focus on your dram’s provenance and educate staff in whisky range  

Isle of Arran Distillers managing director Euan Mitchell says: “Burns’ Night is a big date in our calendar. As the producers of the only whiskies endorsed by the World Robert

Burns Federation — the Robert Burns Single Malt and the Robert Burns Blended Malt — we take great pride in celebrating the bard and helping operators to do the same.

“In terms of the range behind the bar, it should reflect the current trend of consumer interest in provenance. Consumers want products with a story and a guarantee they’re drinking a spirit that has been made by people who know and care about it. As the only distillery on an island once awash with illicit stills, we are privileged to have a rich heritage and a long history of producing top-quality whisky.

“It’s crucial that staff are educated on the whisky range in order to help consumers choose a dram to suit their tastes and match their food choices. For example, someone new to the category might prefer the smoother and mellow palate of a blended whisky by way of an introduction.

“When it comes to serves, Scotch is by no means restricted to a drop of water or neat over ice. Our Robert Burns Single Malt is sweet and creamy with flavours of honey and toffee-glazed pecans, ideal for cocktails. Mainstream cocktail recipes can be adapted to include the single malt, and a wider range of styles, ages and expressions, gives operators increased options to create long serves that best suit their patrons.”


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