Lashings of whisky, traditional Scottish music and the iconic haggis – Burns Night is always an evening full of good fun, great food and fantastic drink. But if you want to host your own dinner, it’s important to know the history behind the celebration and the running order of events. Just make sure your liquor cabinet is well-stocked!
Robert (or Rabbie) Burns is one of Scotland’s most important national heroes. Widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, his life and works have been celebrated in the country since his death in 1796, when his friends and acquaintances would gather at his cottage to remember him. Nowadays, 25 January (Robert Burns’ birthday) is known as Burns Night in Scotland, and the occasion has spread into the rest of the UK and across the globe (thanks to patriotic expats).
The night is a celebration of Scottish culture as a whole, something Burns was incredibly passionate about, so there are certain items of food and drink that you simply have to serve. Haggis is Scotland’s most famous dish, made of oats, spices and sheep offal encased in a stomach lining. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but don’t worry – there are very good quality vegetarian haggis available, too. This is traditionally served with mashed swede (known as neeps) and potatoes (known as tatties). Whisky sauce is poured on top, which can be anything from a simple shot of flambéed whisky to a whisky-infused cream.
Starters and desserts are a little less set in stone; for example, you could begin your meal with a bowl of traditional Cock a leekie soup and end it with Scottish Cranachan, a layered pudding made with cream, raspberries, oats and – of course – whisky.
You’ll certainly need some Scotch whisky to serve to your guests; preferably a few different single malts from the different regions of the country. Plenty of wine and (Scottish) beer should also be on offer. Several rounds of toasting take place throughout the night, so make sure your guests’ glasses are always topped up.