Michael Ferrie, Caledonia
Scottish Pub, New York
BY ALIA AKKAM
An authentic meat pie may certainly
be enough incentive for New Yorkers
to stake out a perch at cozy Caledonia
Scottish Pub, but it’s the astounding
whisky collection that has made this
neighborhood joint a mecca for Scotch
aficionados. Here, co-owner Michael
Ferrie—a Dundee, Scotland, native who
has worked at the likes of local bars Mus-
tang Harry’s, Jack’s, Hi-Life and The Perfect
Pint—talks about whisky’s great surge.
THE BEVERAGE NETWORK:
Caledonia is at once an everyday
pub and a Scotch destination. How
do you achieve that balance?
I always wanted to
open a bar that is first, extremely whisky-
oriented—but without the pretentious-
ness that has surrounded the single malt
category for far too long—and secondly,
a place that a lot of our customers would
call their second home. We have man-
aged to cultivate a fantastic group of reg-
ulars at Caledonia, and I feel like that’s
what has made the bar such a success.
How big is the collection?
We are up to about 180 different
kinds of whiskies now, mostly single
malts and blends from Scotland, but
also a good amount of Irish whiskies
and bourbons, as well as a few from
non-traditional whisky countries, such
as Japan, India and Wales.
Many Scotch lovers already
have their favorites. How do you
invite guests to venture beyond their
With all due respect to the giants
of the Scottish distilleries, I do try to get
people away from whiskies they can
order at any other bar and encourage
them to try some of the lesser-known
gems from Scotland. My whole phi-
losophy on single malts is that there
aren’t really any bad ones, so custom-
ers should try to taste as many different
ones as they can to find the 10 or 15
they really love.
How does education play a
role in your approach to hospitality?
Whisky should be fun. I won’t lec-
ture people on the ins and outs of whisky
production or how you are supposed to
drink it, but I’ll always answer any ques-
tions people have if they want to expand
Any new Scotch finds you’re
especially passionate about?
I fell in love with Glen Grant 10-
year-old recently. It’s very under the ra-
dar in the States, which is right up my
alley. It’s the first whisky I introduce to
new single malt drinkers, too, and they
also seem to love it. I would describe it
as a very smooth, fruity, easy-drinking
whisky. Another Scotch that was avail-
able for a short period of time last year
and has just come back into stock is
the Laphroaig Triple Wood. It’s ex-
tremely well balanced, and even those
that cringe at the thought of drinking a
smoky dram seem to enjoy it.
How do you think the Scotch
demographic is changing? Are you
seeing a younger clientele express
interest? More women?
Scotch is just exploding. Whereas
it used to be the drink of choice for old,
stuffy men, it seems like everyone is
falling in love with Scotch these days.
Certainly the amount of women who are
drinking whisky at the bar is rapidly in-
creasing. In my opinion, it’s women the
industry should be targeting.
Whisky is, of course, always
savored when served neat. But
tell us about some of the cocktails
you’ve come up with.
I personally think whisky tastes
best on its own—it has all the flavor it
needs. Although, a whisky-based cock-
tail we put together called the Islay Old
Fashioned has proven to be very popu-
lar. It’s our Scottish spin on an American
classic. We use Bowmore instead of
bourbon and this gives it a balance of
both smoky and sweet flavors.
It seems like Caledonia is
also having fun turning guests on
to Scotch beers as well.
Scottish beers are both under-
rated and unknown stateside, which
is a shame. Hopefully we are doing
our bit to change that. We are start-
ing to get people coming from other
parts of the city just for the beer. Bel-
haven, a cream ale, has become wild-
ly popular for us. Also, Innis & Gunn
is doing very well. It’s aged in Scotch
casks for 77 days. Beer and whisky in
one: what’s not to love?