Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Old Fashioned

I got an email from the fairer member of the Gone Mild household (hint: not Dan) linking to an article on the NY Times website that covered the subject of my favorite drink, the Old Fashioned. The point of the article is that it is a drink that inspires much debate.

I soon realized that the Old Fashioned is merely one battle line, albeit a significant one, in a much larger discussion among cocktail fans online that sometimes flared with passion (for regardless of the topic, the Internet has become no place for even-tempered debate). And while the subject of how to mix drinks is typically a pleasant one, the debates over proper recipes, spirits, tools and techniques that are conducted in person — typically over cocktails that have been exactingly described to an increasingly exasperated bartender — or on blogs or online forums such as eGullet and the soon-to-be-defunct Drinkboy forums, can sometimes veer into serious, clinically dry and even belligerent arenas.
The author then gives his recipe for an Old Fashioned. I don't completely agree with his recipe, so I thought I would present to you my Old Fashioned instructions (with commentary).

To make a great Old Fashioned you need the following ingredients:

1. An Old Fashioned glass:

2. Ice:
Enough ice to fill that glass beyond where you think you should. This drink should be cold after all.

3. Simple Syrup:
There are a lot of purists who argue for a single sugar cube muddled with a splash of water. Fine I guess, but simple syrup is a mixture of water and sugar. And it is way faster. I usually use about 2 teaspoons.

4. Fruit:
The author of the article derides the addition of fruit a little bit. I disagree. A maraschino cherry and a and a slice of orange (peel on) add some interesting flavor, beautiful color and a little treat while you're waiting for the next one. And if your complain is that it masks the flavor of the whiskey, then you probably shouldn't have put bitters and sugar in your drink either.

The fruit should be muddled at the bottom of the glass with the simple syrup. It helps bring out the flavor that is hidden in the orange peel and helps distribute the flavor throughout the drink. There are a lot of different muddlers in the world. I like this kind:

5. Whiskey:
I like rye whiskey. It's a little spicier and a little less sweet. Those are good things when you are making a drink with a bunch of sugar in it. There are several varieties of rye for sale in KC. On the high end, Sazerac is fantastic. Kind of unnecessary in a drink like this though. I would suggest Old Overholt. It's $10.99 at Berbiglia.

Bourbon works fine, but I would suggest using a less sweet one like Jim Beam rather than something like Knob Creek.

You need two measures of whiskey, if you're into measuring. Otherwise, fill the glass about halfway (with the ice already in it).

6. Bitters:
When you order an Old Fashioned, 9 times out of 10 you will be served a drink made with Angostura bitters. The 10th time you will wonder why you're drink tastes so much better. The answer is likely that it was made with Peychaud's bitters.

Peychaud's is essentially the same thing as Angostura, but it is a little sweeter, a little more flowery and a beautiful red color. You wouldn't want to use Peychaud's in some drinks that call for bitters because of these differences, but in an Old Fashioned they are perfection. Two dashes of bitters do the trick.

To make the drink:

1. Put the simple syrup and the fruit in the glass and muddle.
2. Add the ice (seriously, lots of it).
3. Add the whiskey.
4. Add the bitters.
5. Add a splash of water (I understand that it doesn't make sense, but seems to help blend everything together to me).
6. NEVER EVER TOP THE DRINK OFF WITH CLUB SODA. The worst Old Fashioned's in the world are made with club soda. It turns a wonderful drink into a fizzy, whiskey flavored soft drink.
7. Stir it all together.
8. Drink.

Now if you are someone who thinks I have horribly botched the making of an Old Fashioned, you are welcome to leave your suggestions in comments. I promise I will look at them briefly before continuing to make the drink exactly the same way described above.


jackknife rodriguez said...

I need you to make me one of those. I don't have my doctorate in chemistry to follow all of those instructions. I once had old fashioned ice cream but it didn't have any booze in it. It was just made in a barrel by my granny.

AKCB said...

I'm not a big fan of the fruit-salad old fashioned. I tend to be a syrup, bitters, ice, whiskey (usually Old Grandad 80 proof, sometimes the bonded or Rittenhouse rye), lemon twist kinda guy, but to each their own. Have you tried Fee Bros. Old Fashioned bitters? Even better are the Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Aromatic bitters.

bigsmithdude said...

dang. you REALLY like old-fashioned's.

i prefer pabst....

Jim said...

I haven't had Fee Bros. Where can you get them?

AKCB said...

Riverside Red-X carries the basic aromatic bitters and good selection of Fee's other specialty bitters (cherry, west indies orange, lemon, mint). They're reasonably priced at around $6/bottle. I've only been able to find the whiskey-barrel aged on the internets, but they're worth the search and a bit more expensive at 11 or 12 a bottle. Red-X is also the only place in town I've found that carries the new Angostura Orange bitters.

Lawrence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lawrence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lawrence said...

If you want to muddle the fruit, I don't have a problem with that, just don't call it an old fashioned, because it's not. add fruit as a garnish, or at the very least, squeeze a peel of orange and then add to glass. even though lemon was the only garnish originally and dont "top off" with anything.

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