There are many things said to relieve the symptoms of the common cold and, according to The Dictionaries of the Scots Language, Athole brose is one: “honey or meal mixed with whisky, used in the Highlands as a cure for a cold”.
Stevenson in Kidnapped (1886) describes it:
“A bottle of that drink which they call Athole brose, and which is made of old whiskey, strained honey and sweet cream, slowly beaten together in the right order and proportion.”
This was cited in a report from The Scotsman (March 1949):
“Mr Wingate was fined £1 last April for having been found in a state of intoxication in his premises, an agent said that his client had been told that Athole Brose was a good cure for laryngitis … Quoting from the book [Kidnapped], the agent said … ‘Even R. L. Stevenson, a very clever man, did not say what the proportions should be’… His client mixed the whisky and the strained honey, but had not sweet cream, so he added some rum. That was his undoing.”
According to legend, the drink is named for the first Earl of Athole, who suppressed a Highland rebellion in 1475 by spiking the Earl of Ross’ well with honey and whisky.
In March 1953 the Dundee Courier announced:
“It is surprising to learn, in these days of complicated drinks, that Athole brose has never been produced commercially. That deficiency is now to be made good… Under the Ministry of Food Order … it must contain not less than 25% proof spirit”.
This Scots Word of the Week was written by Pauline Cairns Speitel. Visit DSL Online at https://dsl.ac.uk.