"This is my cocktology bar," says bar manager John McCarthy of Mary Queen of Scots. (He runs the cocktail show at Whitehall and Highlands as well.) "This is where I get to do the weird stuff. I love the weird stuff."
A dressed-up pub all plaid and dark wood, Mary Queen of Scots comes with a pretty clear drink focus; it's no surprise that Scotch dominates the cocktail list. But not everything has a straightforward Scotch base. "I wanted that to be the through-line of the menu," says McCarthy. "Maybe it's a Scottish liqueur, maybe it's something that picks up the notes you get in Scotch. Some common elements weave their way through."
The smoke of Scotch certainly does, whether through that spirit, flamed citrus peel, or mezcal (or all of the above). The sweeter of the drinks are balanced by bitters, and citrus oils keep things lively. The fall cocktail list makes good use of AnCnoc and Glenrothes, but infused vodkas make appearances as well, as does Drambuie and Scottish gin.
McCarthy will point you to favorite sipping Scotches, but looks for something different in mixing. "I want something with depth and character, a little richness and spice, but something that's smooth; it shouldn't overwhelm other flavors, it should blend." AnCnoc 12 and Glenrothes are house favorites.
While the Manhattan-like Jacobean and the Scotch-Cynar Presbyterian Revenge may seem the best for the season, these aren't all strong spirit-forward sippers; after all, winter 'tis the season of sparkling sippers, too. And McCarthy's take on a Scotch Hot Toddy, if not the most novel, is the one of these we'll probably be back for come December.