The Greatest Beverage in the World: Hot Scotchy (Hot Scotchie)

Those who know me know I am not given to exaggeration. I am a man of vast and unyielding moderation. Therefore, you should pay close attention when I say that there's this old-timey concoction called a Hot Scotchie (or, variously Hot Scotchy or Hot Fat Bastard) which is, objectively, the finest beverage known to man.*

We should probably step back a moment and acknowledge James Horlick before we get too far afield. Horlick, an Englishman, invented a product originally aimed at infants called "malted milk." Eventually, the powdered version of the product became popular among adults, leading to malted milkshakes, malted milk balls, and other malt-based foods. The heyday of malt lasted for the first half of the 20th century, though Horlicks is still quite popular throughout Asia.

I'm not sure why the phenomenon died out, because malt is uniquely comforting. Essentially, it's just dried malt powder, not unlike that which extract brewers brew with: malted grain, mashed and dried. Obviously, it's unhopped and pre-alcoholic. The quality is grainy, like breakfast cereal, sweet and wholesome. It tastes like something your mother would give you to keep you warm and ward off colds--which, in fact, was pretty much what it became.

Now we come to Hot Scotchie, a drink with a history lost to the mists of time. Or at least lost to Google. The concept is much the same. Brewers would draw off a small amount of the mash as it issued from the grain bed, fresh and warm. To this they added a dollop of Scotch. What happens is nothing short of mystical. Mash runnings are very sweet and flabby--there's no definition to the flavors. The addition of Scotch somehow reverses all this. Like an electric current, the Scotch animates the grains so that you can taste them in HD. The Scotch is likewise a very clear note, but not sharp or aggressive. It has all the flavor of a straight shot, but it's floating amid Mom's comforting malted. Insanely beguiling.

The version I had was made with mash from Upright Seven and Talisker. As an added touch, Jacob Grier added a tiny skiff of whipped cream, but this is definitely optional (though also nice). All reports suggest that it doesn't matter what mash runnings you're working with--Hot Scotchie rocks whether the beer in question is a mild or barleywine. In fact, you become more attuned to the variations in batches that way, so say the experienced. However, reports differ about which Scotches to use. Homebrew maven Ray Daniels swears by cheap Scotch, but Grier says only good, single malt, and only something with character--preferably peat. He plans on Ardbeg, an Islay, for the weekend. I'll experiment and get back to you.

Hot Scotchies are, for the moment anyway, mainly the province of homebrewers. Perhaps the odd pro sneaks a pint of wort from an afternoon brew, but I doubt it. The trouble is, unhopped wort isn't an ingredient to which bartenders have ready access. Therefore, in the near term at least, Hot Scotchies are not likely to become commonplace. Fortunately, the US has 1600+ breweries, so perhaps some of them will work with bars, at least on a limited basis, to bring the Hot Scotchie to an unsuspecting public. Consider this my plea.

Portlanders have a great opportunity this weekend to try a Hot Scotchie at the Hop and Vine, and I encourage them to avail themselves of it. Others should either take up homebrewing or try to arrange for Hot Scotchie tastings in your town. No one should live a life without having had one.

*Most of this is expansive exaggeration. I am a serial hyperbolizer, and I wouldn't recommend ordering a Hot Fat Bastard unless you know the bartender. But Hot Scotchie: yes, the finest beverage known to man. Objectively.