Host A Burns Supper with Fox & Beagle

A celebration of the life of the Ploughman Poet.

January can be pretty grim, so as a proud Scot and a Scotiaphile? Scotophile? Caledonaphile? we're grateful for something to look forward to and then celebrate on the 25th day of what always seems like the longest month of the year.

We love hosting Burns Night events - whether its providing classic, innovative or futuristic cocktails making the most of some great Scottish produce, or guiding guests through a structured whisky tasting. Get in touch if you'd like our help with an event.

Given that the Scots are a welcoming and hospitable people, and given that Burns is celebrated the world over, there's no need to miss out on this excuse for a party if you happen to hail from elsewhere. In fact many bars and whisky brands will be hosting Burns Night events in London and other major UK cities this year and you can choose to take your haggis and whisky with a ceilidh at a number of venues.

Alternatively you might like to host your own event. Over the years we've picked up a few tips on how to run a cracking Burns Supper, so here are a few pointers:

Invite a Scot
For that extra authenticity, try your best to invite a Scottish pal - they'll be familiar with the ceremonial elements of the evening, can help cook and serve the haggis and will have the best shot at getting through some poetry in auld Scots!

Add a Splash of Tartan
Full Highland dress may be a little excessive if you're just hosting a small dinner party for a few friends, but a kilt, tartan jacket or at least a tie or handkerchief should be encouraged. Tartan can also feature in the decorations - a simple ribbon on a vase of thistles will add a touch of Scotland to any centrepiece.

Address the Haggis
The most reverent part of the evening is the arrival of the main course. It is traditional to pipe in the haggis as a guest of honour - that is for the chef, carrying the haggis to follow a piper into the dining room. This may not be possible in your cosy open-plan flat, but you should at least attempt the Address to a Haggis in your best Scottish brogue. One option is to share the work and pass the text around the table asking each guest to read a verse. Extra points should be awarded for authentic pronunciation and dramatic flourishes of the knife at "His knife see Rustic-labour dight, an’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight" when the haggis is pierced.

Raid the Scottish Larder
While haggis is traditional (as well as being delicious), if you're squeamish (or vegetarian) meat-free options are available. Ask your local butcher, order direct from Scotland, or in London try Ginger Pig or Morley's.

If you still can't face it, then look to the other traditional gifts of Scotland's larder - salmon, venison or beef would all be suitable alternatives for the main course, with perhaps just a touch of haggis or a traditional cock-a-leekie, Cullen Skink or Scotch broth to start. For dessert, cranachan, clootie dumpling or shortbread will hit the spot.

You'll find recipes for these and more here.

Look Beyond Whisky
We're not suggesting you skip the whisky - it would be close to heresy to toast the haggis, the bard and each other with anything else. But for the rest of your drinks menu what about exploring some of the craft gins and beers from Scotland's independent producers as well? Here are a few we're partial to:

 

We're also partial to an honorary Burns cocktail or two - you can see some of the recipes we've cooked up for Burns Nights past here or here.

Don't Be Afraid of Poetry
Poetry traditionally forms a significant part of a Burns Supper - there's no shortage of the great man's works that might be read throughout the evening. The most famous being Tam o'Shanter, To A Mouse and Ae Fond Kiss, although I'm also partial to Cock Up Your Beaver. It means to straighten one's hat, but for some reason, it always gets a laugh.

If you don't think you can do the auld Scots justice you can find great recordings of many of his best loved poems (Camera Obscura recorded a Burns Night Peel Session and Eddi Reader has released an album of Burns poems).

Give a Speech
In the more formal Burns Supper there is a strict running order of after-dinner speeches:

  • The Immortal Memory - a loving speech to the talents of Robert Burns and the glory of Scotland, concluding with a toast to "the immortal memory of Robert Burns!"
  • The Toast to the Lassies - a humorous speech praising the role of women in the world today.
  • The Reply to the Toast to the Lassies - one of the ladies present is given the honour (or revenge) of replying to the Toast to the Lassies.

 

These can be used as the inspiration for toasts, speeches or readings, it's up to you, but given the evening is in honour of Robert Burns, at least a short toast to his immortal memory should be given.

But whatever you do, enjoy yourself, and end the evening with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Just whatever you do, don't cross your arms before "gie's a hand o' thine" though!

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We can help you make Burns Night plans that won't gang agley...
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