IT'S reputed to be "made in Scotland from girders" and it has been hailed as our "other national drink". Now the fizzy, bright-orange concoction that is Irn-Bru has a new claim to fame – as a sausage ingredient.
Butchers up and down the country served up sweet chilli and Irn-Bru bangers to coincide with National Sausage Week – and the offbeat recipe proved to be a hit with customers.
Derek Mackay, of Castletown Butchers in Caithness, was among those who decided to give it a go and he was pleasantly surprised by the response. Far from being a short-term gimmick, the sweet chilli and Irn-Bru combination now looks like becoming a permanent fixture at his busy shop in the village's Traill Street.
"It's going very well," Derek said. "We've had a lot of people saying they're lovely and coming back for more, so they're proving very popular so far.
"I think people are intrigued. We've tried quite a lot of new things before, but I've never seen anything take off as quickly as this.
"It's just something different. You can do plenty of sausages with herbs and different mixtures but I think the Irn-Bru factor seems to take them in."
It was Stuarts of Buckhaven that came up with the recipe, and the Fife firm went on to win the speciality sausage contest for Scotland's craft butchers in May last year. Alan Stuart, managing director of Stuarts, reckoned it deserved to become "the national sausage of Scotland".
Scottish Craft Butchers – a body that looks after the interests of 450 butchers' shops – saw the potential and the Irn-Bru and sweet chilli pork sausage went nationwide for National Sausage Week, which ran from October 31st.
The recipe and point-of-sale materials were sent to craft butcher shops throughout Scotland and proved to be sizzlingly successful.
Derek's version is made with pork sourced from Moray. He says the sweetness of the Irn-Bru and the heat of the sweet chilli complement each other well – although he admits it seems odd putting Irn-Bru into the mix instead of the customary water.
He said: "It's strange – you always put water in sausages, but when you're putting in Irn-Bru instead you feel you're doing something wrong!
"We'd been making them for about a couple of weeks, and it had just been ticking over, but as soon as it went in the local paper it really took off.
"I must admit the thought of it was a bit strange, but there are five of us in here and we all tried it and thought it was nice."
He is hopeful the initial burst of enthusiasm will be maintained. "It would be good to get orders in," Derek said. "It makes you wonder whether chip shops would be interested in it."
The inclusion of Irn-Bru has inspired one or two alternative suggestions from those with a taste for a slightly stronger tipple.
Derek revealed: "We're getting a lot of customers wanting alcohol in it – ale, and even wine."
For the time being, though, he'll be sticking with Irn-Bru. "It's proving a success so far, so hopefully it'll continue," Derek added. "We're just trying to keep up with it now."