Wine & Spirits: Summer Scotch Cocktails from Proof’s Adam Bernbach

by WL Author

Don’t save smoky, peaty whiskey for when the barometer drops—it has a rightful place behind the bar all year long.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

The bar at Proof

The bar at Proof

Gin and tonic. Margarita. Mojito. The usual suspects for warmer weather cocktails typically involves gin, tequila, rum or vodka. But while reaching for a bottle of Scotch in these scorching summer temperatures might not seem like the most logical choice, work with me and suspend your disbelief for a minute. Though for many it’s a go-to option only on a brisk fall evening or frigid winter night, meaty, peaty, smoky whisky is also a great option when the thermometer rises above the proof listed on the bottle.

“In summer, I like the florality that some Scotches have,” admits Proof Bar Manager Adam Bernbach. “Also, the campfire quality of peat smoke can be very evocative.”

The peatiest, smokiest Scotches tend to hail from the Scottish island of Islay. Historically, firewood has been scarce on the island, so producers use peat—semi-carbonized vegetation—in kilns to dry out the barley during the malting process before distillation. It’s true that not every Scotch is smoky, but those that are tend to work very well with ingredients that brighten and lighten those notes—like citrus.

In his Seafoam cocktail, for example, Bernbach uses Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch, an artisanal Scotch

Bernbach uses Compass Peat Monster Scotch in his Seafoam cocktail

Bernbach uses Compass Peat Monster Scotch in his Seafoam cocktail

comprised of extremely smoky malt whisky from Islay that’s blended with medium-peated Highland whiskey. The addition of lemon juice adds some zest, Manzanilla Sherry lightens, honey syrup adds a tinge of sweetness, and sea salt flakes sprinkled on top give a nod (along with the drink’s name) to the seaweed character often found in island Scotch. This is definitely a summer sipp-able beverage, whether you are seaside or apartment-bound:

Courtesy of Adam Bernbach, Bar Manager, Proof
1 1/2 oz. Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch
3/4 oz. Manzanilla Sherry
1/2 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water, stirred to combine)
1 egg white
Grapefruit bitters, for garnish (like those from Fee Brothers)
Sea salt flakes, for garnish

Add first five ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake profusely. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with grapefruit bitters and sea salt flakes.

Proof's Adam Bernbach uses Scotch in cocktails all year round.

Proof's Adam Bernbach uses Scotch in cocktails all year round.

For his Chapin cocktail, Bernbach infuses Johnny Walker Red Scotch with fragrant anise and Chamomile tea. (If you haven’t ever infused any type of spirit, it only sounds daunting. Just add a handful of herbs, spices, tea leaves, etc. to a bottle of your choice, and shake every few hours until you get the desired flavor—it could take a day or two, or longer. If you are using tea, however, know that the booze can get tannic rather easily, so go lightly and taste often.) Cocchi Americano is an aperitif from the Asti region of Italy that’s similar to France’s Lillet Blanc—if you can’t get your hands on a bottle, Lillet is a decent substitute here.

Courtesy of Adam Bernbach, Bar Manager, Proof
1 1/2 oz. anise- and Chamomile-infused Johnny Walker Red Scotch
3/4 oz. Cocchi Americano
1/4 oz. Dolin Sweet Vermouth
1 barspoon Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
Orange zest, for garnish

Add all to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Stir until chilled, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange zest.

For the home mixologist looking to easily incorporate Scotch into your bar repertoire during these lazy, hazy summer days, Bernbach offers up a simple to replicate cocktail. Muddle lemon with a little honey in the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass, and add a generous splash of your favorite Scotch (he likes Compass Box Asyla). Over ice, if you like.

Unconventional in this heat? Maybe. But try a Scotch libation this summer and you just may decide to banish that blender.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website,, or on

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