As a general whiskey rule, scotch is sipped neat and bourbon is what you use in mixed drinks. You know that a restaurant or bar is serious about cocktails when you see scotch concoctions on their menu. Since emerging on the scene in the early '90s at the erstwhile Mumbo Jumbo, chef Shaun Doty has been one of the primary engines pushing innovation on the Atlanta cocktail scene. So it's no surprise to find the Hill and Dale as a signature drink at his eponymous Inman Park bistro.
The H&D is a modern variation on the old-school Rusty Nail, which blends scotch and Drambuie — and nothing else. But unlike that cocktail-lounge staple, which is the kind of stiff belt that tends to turn off the novice tippler, the H&D has a much lighter, floral taste. That floral quality comes courtesy of St. Germaine, an elderflower liqueur from France that has become a recent favorite of mixologists across the country.
Ironically, Doty explains that his head bartender, Callie Schlosser, hit upon the recipe to solve a problem that many restaurateurs will recognize: "It started out with us trying to find a way to use up some scotch that we had."
Originally, a different scotch was used, but Schlosser found that the sweeter, fruitier, less peaty taste of Compass Box Oak Cross, a high-end blended scotch aged in French oak barrels, worked well with the other ingredients. Drambuie, of course, is a sweet, scotch-based liqueur flavored with honey and herbs. And St. Germaine, too, is quite sweet, so the lemon juice helps balance the mix.
The cocktail is topped with an orange peel that has been squeezed over a flame, giving the drink a smoky fragrance and the subtle taste of orange essence.
The H&D succeeds in the way many of the best cocktails do, with all the ingredients blending seamlessly to create a unique taste experience.