Cocktail Creators: Holy Willie’s Prayer

Both the righteous and not-so-righteous are welcome in the warm embrace of this whiskey drink.

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Bartender in a blue shirt standing behind a bar with a cocktail and three liquor bottles on the bar.
Have your prayers for world peace gone unanswered? Aim a bit lower and just ask for a good drink. / Dylan Holcomb

It’s a tough road for innovative whiskey cocktails that live in the shadows of classic juggernauts like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan, but the Holy Willie’s Prayer at Seven Grand is up to the task of shining on, standing out, and blazing a new, single malt-centric trail. As unparalleled and perfect as the classics are, they also serve as a base for caretakers of booze to tweak in the pursuit of cocktail creation. While Holy Willie’s Prayer swims in the waters of a Manhattan or Rob Roy, bartender Dylan Holcomb has created a concoction with legs strong enough to strike out for deeper waters. 

The drink (which is named after Scottish poet Robert Burns’ famous burn piece critiquing hypocrisy in the Church of Scotland) won’t set you ablaze, but it will warm your heart, soul, and stomach with a two-ounce pour of Bruichladdich’s Classic Laddie. The team at Seven Grand knows their juice, and loves their Scotch. Holcomb sums it up by saying the Classic Laddie “is a perfect representation of an unpeated scotch, both floral and elegant. [It] has the body and integrity to stand up in a cocktail, but just like you and me, is perfect just the way it is.” 

Holcomb crafts a chai-infused, maple wood smoked sweet vermouth for Holy Willie’s Prayer. He infuses the vermouth for 24 hours and then hits the spirit with a smoke gun during the prep phase before adding a Benedictine rinse to the drink. The warm, inviting, and subtle nuances of the drink, as well as aromatic bitters that pull the flavor profile together, make it a crowd favorite. The motto at Seven Grand is, “Whiskey For the People” and this drink, like whiskey, is for everyone and anyone. It’s perfect for those looking to expand on their whiskey experience and knowledge, for someone who might not know they actually love Scotch until they try it in a cocktail, the consummate single malt pro, and everyone in between. 

The $16 price tag is more than reasonable for such an elegant and thoughtful beverage. Guests can also enjoy the drink at home in a beefed up, COVID-appropriate nine ounce serving, though we’re crossing our fingers that we’ll be able to enjoy the spectacle that is the bar’s Burns Night in person on January 25. It’s a celebration of the poet’s life where the whiskey flows like…well, whiskey. 

  • Restaurant: Seven Grand Denver
  • Bartender: Dylan Holcomb
  • Name of Cocktail: Holy Willie’s Prayer
  • Recipe:
    • 2 oz. Bruichladdich Classic Laddie
    • ¾ oz. chai-infused, maple wood smoked sweet vermouth
    • 4 dashes aromatic bitters
    • Benedictine rinse
    • Orange twist
    • Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add cubed ice. Stir approximately 30 times. Strain into a Benedictine-rinsed DOF glass. Garnish.
  • Pour Cost: At $16 per cocktail, this rocks at a very friendly 19% pour cost.
  • Sales: $220 per week/$11,440 per year

Jen Mattioni started working in bars and restaurants as a Philadelphia high school student and never left the industry. She moved to Denver in 2008 and has had the opportunity to manage, bartend, and serve at great spots including Q House, Leña, Prohibition, The Walnut Room, and Central Bistro; she is also the cocktail creator for Colorado FIVE 2019 and 2020. Currently, she’s completing her MFA degree and spends her free time eating as many breakfast sandwiches as humanly possible, creating oddball cocktails with ingredients she’s never used, fiending for dumplings, and reading too many books simultaneously.

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