Black Tartan Cocktail Recipe

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Black Tartan Nutrition Facts


Total fat:0g


Total carbohydrates:18g

Alcohol by volume:~30%

Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 16, 2024


The Black Tartan is a cocktail that marries the robust flavors of Scotland and Ireland. It's a drink that's found favor among those who appreciate the depth of a good Scotch and the warmth of Irish whiskey. The cocktail's name reflects its Scottish roots with 'Tartan' symbolizing the traditional plaid fabric synonymous with Scottish kilts.

  • Originating in the late 20th century, the Black Tartan was likely inspired by the growing trend of blending spirits to create complex flavors.
  • It's a popular choice among connoisseurs who enjoy a stiff, spirit-forward drink.
  • The cocktail has also been appreciated in gatherings that celebrate Scottish and Irish heritage.

How Black Tartan Tastes?

The Black Tartan is a rich and complex cocktail. It's bold with the smokiness of Scotch and the smooth sweetness of the coffee liqueur. The Irish whiskey adds a layer of warmth, while the Drambuie introduces a touch of honey and herbaceousness. Overall, it's a strong, slightly sweet, and smoky drink that lingers on the palate.

Interesting facts about Black Tartan

  • The Black Tartan cocktail is not as widely known as other classic cocktails, which makes it a unique choice for those looking to try something different.
  • The combination of Scotch and Irish whiskey in one drink is relatively rare, making this cocktail a celebration of Celtic spirits.
  • Despite its strong flavor profile, the Black Tartan can be enjoyed as a sipping drink, allowing the imbiber to appreciate the nuances of its ingredients.


Kahlua Coffee Liqueur

Kahlua adds sweetness and depth with its coffee flavor, complementing the whisky's warmth. Without it, we'd lose the cocktail's rich coffee notes. Using less would make the coffee undertones too subtle, while more might overpower the delicate balance.

Emma Rose

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey, known for its smooth and slightly sweet profile, adds complexity. Too little, and the drink lacks backbone; too much, and you might as well be having a whiskey neat. Bushmills or Jameson could serve as alternatives, altering the drink's nuances.

Mary Mitkina

Drambuie Scotch Whisky

Drambuie brings spicy sweetness with its honey and herb notes, enhancing the cocktail's body. Skip it, and miss out on this smoky sweetness. Less Drambuie would diminish its kick; more could make it cloying. An alternative like Glayva would change the spiciness and sweetness balance.

Alex Green

Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky

Black Label adds a smoky, complex elegance. The blend of whiskies gives the Black Tartan its backbone. Very necessary – without it, the Black Tartan loses its tartan entirely! Opting for a different scotch, like Chivas Regal, might bring a smoother profile.

Emma Rose

Recipe. How to make Black Tartan Drink

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes.
  2. Pour 1.5 oz of Kahlua coffee liqueur over the ice.
  3. Add 1 oz of Irish whiskey to the mixing glass.
  4. Measure and pour 1 oz of Drambuie into the mix.
  5. Finally, add 1 oz of Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky.
  6. Stir the ingredients together until well chilled.
  7. Strain the mixture into a chilled old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice.
  8. Optionally, garnish with a twist of lemon or an orange peel to add a citrus aroma.

Pro Tips

  • For a smoother cocktail, use a large ice cube or ice sphere in the old-fashioned glass to slow down dilution.
  • When stirring the cocktail, make sure to do so gently to prevent over-dilution and to maintain the integrity of the spirits.
  • Allow the cocktail to sit for a minute after pouring to let the flavors meld together.

Perfect Pairings

Cheese & Charcuterie

Black Tartan's rich flavors pair well with bold cheeses such as aged cheddar or gouda, and cured meats like prosciutto or chorizo.

Chocolate Desserts

The coffee notes of Kahlua and the warmth of whisky make this cocktail a lovely companion to dark chocolate desserts or chocolate mousse.

Grilled Meats

With its robust profile, the Black Tartan can stand up to the smoky flavors of grilled steak or barbecued ribs.

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What you could change in Black Tartan

  • If Kahlua is not available, any quality coffee liqueur can be used as a substitute.
  • For Irish whiskey, feel free to use any smooth and slightly sweet Irish whiskey you prefer.
  • In place of Johnnie Walker Black Label, another premium aged Scotch whisky can be used to maintain the drink's character.

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And of course - twists🍹

Coffee & Cream Black Tartan

Add 1 oz of heavy cream to the recipe after stirring the other ingredients. The cream will soften the harshness of the alcohol, creating a more dessert-like indulgence with a silky mouthfeel.

Spiced Black Tartan

Substitute the Irish whiskey with a spiced rum, such as Sailor Jerry. This brings an exotic, spicy twist that compliments the Drambuie's honeyed herb notes and adds a Caribbean flair.

Smoky Orchard Tartan

Replace Johnnie Walker with a smokier scotch like Laphroaig. Add a splash of apple juice for a surprising sweet edge. Together, they'll soften the intense peatiness while introducing an autumn orchard twist.

In case you forgot basics how to make Black Tartan

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Insert the spoon into the glass until it touches the bottom. Keep the back of the spoon against the inside wall of the glass, and stir in a smooth, circular motion. The goal is to swirl the ice and ingredients together without churning or splashing.

Learn everything on how to stir

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Black Tartan

What type of glass is best suited for serving a Black Tartan?

A Black Tartan is best served in an old-fashioned glass, which allows for the full appreciation of the cocktail's aromas and flavors.

Can I make a Black Tartan cocktail in advance?

It's best to mix a Black Tartan fresh to enjoy its unique taste. However, you could pre-measure the spirits and store them in a sealed container to simplify preparation later.

Is the Black Tartan suitable for someone new to Scotch or whiskey?

The Black Tartan has a bold flavor profile that might be intense for newcomers. It’s recommended for those with some experience tasting Scotch or whiskey.

What are some non-alcoholic pairing options for the Black Tartan?

For those who prefer not to consume additional alcohol, pairing the Black Tartan with non-alcoholic options like chocolate-coated coffee beans or spiced nuts can complement the drink's rich flavors.

What is the ideal setting for enjoying a Black Tartan?

Due to its warm and rich flavor profile, a Black Tartan is well-suited for cooler weather or as an after-dinner drink in a relaxed, intimate setting.

Can I use a different type of whiskey instead of Irish whiskey in the recipe?

While you can experiment with different types of whiskey, the original recipe calls for Irish whiskey to achieve the intended balance and complexity.

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