46. Hoots Mon cocktail

31 Dec

Scotch stuff has come to stay / Now the burr drives out the brogue; / Here in the USA / The “hoot mon” is in vogue.

— George Ade, “Scotch Stuff”, Verses and Jingles (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1911), pp. 29-30 (p. 29).

Comes from the lowlands, but hoots, mon (3).

— Crossword clue (19 down), New Scientist, vol. 5, no. 114 (22 January 1959), p. 199.¹

It’s Hogmanay, so what better way to ring in the New Year than with a Scottish-themed cocktail? Like most compounds with a Caledonian cognomen (others include the Highland Fling, the Bobby Burns, Rob Roy and Thistle), the chief ingredient of the Hoots Mon is Scotch whisky. Notoriously, Scotch does not mix particularly well with other spirits and for that reason only rarely receives a casting call. If rye or bourbon are classic leading men, then Scotch is a character actor. Just like Dundee-born Brian Cox. The trick is to use the right kind of Scotch: nothing too peaty or demanding. I used Glenfiddich 12 year old single malt (which is matured in sherry and bourbon casks), which worked pretty well.

From: Judge's Library, No. 170 (May 1903).

The recipe comes from the Savoy Cocktail Book (although it appears in other contemporary sources too):

¼ Kina Lillet.

¼ Italian Vermouth.

½ Scotch Whisky.

Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

From: Harvard Lampoon, vol. 42:1 (14 October 1901), p. 3.

Although little heard on the streets of twenty-first-century Glasgow, “hoot” or “hoot mon” is, as we all know, an ancient oath once uttered by Northern Britons with such frequency that it became, at least to those south of the Tweed and across the Atlantic, an emblem of Scottishness—like shortbread, tartan and heroin. The earliest attestation of the word is from 1698, and it crops up in great works of literature like Waverly, Kidnapped and Ulysses, but Scots liked to pretend they weren’t prone to such cartoonish and Brigadoonish outbursts. Writing to the New York Times in 1936, Scottish emigré John Murray, of Newark, NJ, seethed about the bowdlerization of his native culture; first on his list of complaints was “[t]hat ‘Hoot mon’ is not a Scottish ejaculation and has never been such” (“Scot’s Grievances”, New York Times, 12 January 1936).² Yet there it is in the Scottish National Dictionary, where the interjection is defined as follows: “An exclamation used to express annoyance, disgust, incredulity or remonstrance or in dismissal of an opinion expressed by someone else, tut! fie!”³ The modern-day equivalent, I suppose, would be “get tae fuck!” Which means Will Rogers probably shouldn’t have greeted the adoring crowds on his arrival in Scotland in 1934, a year before his death, with a hearty “hoot mon!” (“Will Rogers in Scotland, New York Times, 19 September 1934, p. 21).

On which note I wish all my readers a happy New Year!

*****

¹ The answer to the cruciverbalist conumdrum is, of course, “owl”—the identity of that which “hoots” is hidden in (“comes from”) the word “lowland”.

² No one at the newspaper was paying attention to Mr Murray: this is the beginning of a New York Times interview with the actor Ernest Torrence, who was appearing in “The Only Girl” at the Lyric Theatre:

From: "This Introduces Hoot-Mon Torrence", New York Times, 27 December 1914.

³One old wag, however, defined the phrase as the “Scottish National Hymn” (Gideon Wurdz, The Foolish Dictionary, 5th edn [Boston, Luce, 1904]).

From: Puck, vol. 75 (11 July 1914), p. 10.

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