Erik Ellestad’s Atholl Brose Cocktail

One great guest bartender, one amazing cocktail—it's just another Thirsty Thursday here on CHOW. This week: Erik Ellestad of The Coachman, a bar and restaurant that are part of Charles Phan's Slanted Door family in San Francisco.

When Erik Adkins, bar manager for the Slanted Door Group in San Francisco, visited Clover Club in Brooklyn a few years ago he had a drink they were calling Atholl Brose: Scotch stirred with honey and topped with lightly whipped cream. In Scotland, Atholl Brose is a traditional beverage typically composed of the liquid from soaking oats—when you make oatmeal from raw steel-cut or stone-ground oats, you soak [the oats] in water so they prehydrate and don't take as long to cook. To this, Scots would add honey, whisky, and cream.

When we started talking about the Coachman, Atholl Brose was on the short list of cocktails Erik Adkins wanted to do, but we didn't want to just replicate Clover Club's drink. Plus I wanted to include some form of the traditional oat infusion, which the Clover Club had left out.

I tried a bunch of different combinations of these ingredients in various iterations and was starting to think I wouldn't find a really good drink. Then one of the Coachman’s cooks, tasting an early test version, told me I needed to find some way to heighten the flavor of the oats. I took the roasted and soaked oats home and made oatmeal from them.

Eating them for breakfast the next day, I realized that my coffee was heightening the roasted flavor of the oats without overwhelming them, kind of like bitters behave in a typical cocktail. I bought cold coffee concentrate on my way to work. As soon as I tasted the combination I knew we had a winner.

Atholl Brose
Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces blended Scotch whisky
1/2 ounce honey syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 ounce cold-process coffee concentrate
2 ounces oat-infused milk (recipe follows)
Freshly grated nutmeg

Combine Scotch, honey syrup, coffee concentrate, and oat-infused milk in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. (It is also really tasty warm, instead of chilled.)

Honey Syrup
Add 1 cup honey to 1 cup hot water. Stir until honey is dissolved. Store in the fridge.

Oat-Infused Milk
Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread 1 cup steel-cut or stone-ground oats onto a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven for 1 to 2 hours, until they’re evenly tan and smell a bit like popcorn. Set aside to cool.

Pour 1 quart whole milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium heat. Warm until almost simmering (i.e., scalded). Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and the roasted oats. Add the hot milk, cool at room temperature, and refrigerate overnight.

Next day, strain the oats, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.

Save the oats—you can make oatmeal by adding 2 to 3 cups of water and cooking over a low heat for about 45 minutes.

While working in technology, Erik Ellestad found himself partially unemployed. To occupy his time and teach himself about his other enthusiasm, cocktails, he began a quest to make and blog every cocktail in the Prohibition-era cocktail tome The Savoy Cocktail Book, on his blog Savoy Stomp. During the course of that adventure he made many friends in the drink industry and eventually found himself behind the bar. He currently works at the San Francisco restaurant the Coachman. Bio photo by Alanna Hale.

Photos, styling, and animated GIF by Chris Rochelle