If I’m going to drink bourbon1, a deftly-created Old Fashioned is probably my favorite way to drink it.
That’s when I come back to the Old Fashioned. As prone to becoming the subject of polemic, revisionism and endlessly repetitive arguments as any other cocktail — barring perhaps the cult-like madness that often accompanies the martini — when the computer is turned off and I place the whiskey and bitters on the kitchen counter, ultimately it’s just a drink. Not that I don’t recall the nagging questions as I mix, nor the ways I’m sure the drink would annoy partisans at polar ends of the mixological range: first a dab of sugar syrup in the bottom of a glass followed by a couple of dashes of bitters (hardcore Old Fashionedistas mandate the physical crushing of a sugar cube, possibly with a swath of orange or lemon peel); then a measured dose of bourbon or rye whiskey, depending on the mood; a quick stir for everyone to get acquainted in the glass, followed by large chunks of ice and, for that inner five-year-old with maturing tastes, a single bottled Italian wild cherry for color, rinsed of any cloying syrup
[Click to continue reading Are You Friends, After an Old Fashioned? - Proof Blog - NYTimes.com]
Personally, I skip the cherry, and usually skip most of the sugar syrup too.
Jonathan Miles adds, in a requiem for the decade just over:
No, the real story was in rediscovered in drinks like the aviation cocktail, a sublimely floral combination of gin and maraschino liqueur (and later, as cocktail historians dug deeper into its origins, the violet-flavored crème de violette) that was a Web sensation before bars like Milk & Honey started featuring it on cocktail lists.
Or the old-fashioned, once dowdy but reinvigorated by bartenders like Don Lee, who recast it as the celery and nori old-fashioned at Momofuku Ssam Bar, and Phil Ward of Death & Company, whose Oaxaca old-fashioned — with tequila standing in for whiskey — proved how versatile a spare, 200-year-old formula could be.
These were artisanal drinks with history and gravitas and a contrapuntal range of flavors — sweet, sour, savory, bitter — that hadn’t been balanced in generations. They’re representative of a lost American art — the art of the cocktail, as practiced by pre-Prohibition bartenders — that, after the ’00s, can no longer be called lost.
[Click to continue reading Shaken and Stirred - The Last Decade Was Good for Cocktails, Anyway - NYTimes.com]
You’d have to add Mad Men chic to the equation too: the Old Fashioned was Don Draper’s signature drink, the drink that won him Connie Hilton’s ad business, as described amusingly at A Dash of Bitters.
It happens to all of us, eventually. You’ll be at the country club, at a party hosted by your boss, who’s in the midst of a humiliating midlife crisis. He’ll be the fool in blackface, serenading his new bride, who’s 30 years his junior. Disgusted, you’ll walk away and seek out another old-fashioned. Alas, no bartender will be on duty, and the famous hotelier who’s rooting around behind the bar will declare that he’s on the same mission as you, but to his dismay, there’s no bourbon.
With a James Bondian flourish, you’ll leap over the bar, rummage a bit, and find some good Old Overholt. You’ll take a couple of glasses, drop a sugar cube in each, and dash in some bitters. While the bitters soften the sugar cubes, you’ll find any old tall glass behind the bar and fill it about halfway with ice. Free-pour the rye over that, open a bottle of soda water, and splash some in. Muddle the sugar cubes. Roughly thrust a barspoon up and down in the tall glass three times, and then pour the drink, ice included, half into one glass and half into the other.
You’ll drop a wedge of lemon into each glass, then, but you won’t bother stirring the sugar into the drink, probably because you’ll be making out with someone else’s spouse by the time you’d reach the sugary sludge. And you’ll have yourself an old-fashioned rye cocktail. Hand one off to the hotelier and drink up.
[Click to continue reading Don Draper’s no-nonsense old-fashioned for two — A Dash of Bitters]
Indeed. No precision required, just American can-do-ism.Footnotes:
- not in my top ten of alcoholic drinks, well, maybe number 10 or 11. [↩]