The old Fashioned is hands down, my favourite drink.
It wasn’t always, in fact it used to be beer.
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that it was introduced to me by Nic Koumbarakis on my first visit to The House Of Machines. My first sip literally changed my approach to drinking and gave me a new appreciation for a well made cocktail. Up until then, my idea of a cocktail was something sugary sweet topped with a cherry, maybe a piece of pineapple and definitely a tiny little umbrella.
Now, admittedly, I do have a penchant for classic cocktails. The kind that are made by mixing booze on booze and giving you a proper kick up the pants. This, is perhaps the most classic of classic cocktails, so classic in fact that it dates back to 1806, so classic in fact that the glass it was served in became known as an old fashioned glass. I mean I don’t know how many other drinks can claim that! Except for whiskey I suppose….and champagne. Wine too I guess. Ok fine, but still classic!
As legend has it (yes legend) this was a breakfast drink – those really were the good ol’ days uh? Bourbon whiskey mixed with water, sugar and a couple dashes of bitters was apparently the most important meal of the day. During prohibition, the drink saw many variations and additives (mostly because the liquor back then tasted so terrible resulting in most of todays classic cocktails) until 1881 where the first ‘Old Fashioned’ as we know it was created at a gentleman club in Louisville, Kentucky. The rest is history i guess. Well, this part was also history, but this isnt a history blog, so let’s leave it there.
The drink is traditionally still made exactly the same way, sugar, bitters and whiskey all stirred over ice and topped with a citrus twist. Simple, and delicious. For the most part the old fashioned I’m about to show you is traditional except for a little change in the sweetening agent. Instead of sugar I’m gonna use maple syrup, not only because it really brings out the flavour of the bourbon but because that’s how Nic made it and it pretty much tastes like liquid gold.
Below is what you’re gonna need. Some good quality bourbon (I’m a big fan of Woodford Reserve), maple syrup, bitters (i’m using my homemade orange bitters – but that’s a whole other blogpost) and some orange peel. You’re also gonna need some time and a bit of bad assery, that’s what the hourglass and skull are for. As far as the rest of the equipment goes, a mixing glass, stirring spoon and strainer will do the trick, if you’re not sure what these are check out this essentials post.
So, that’s pretty much how you start.
You want to get your old fashioned glass chilling right from the get go. The only thing worse than a warm glass is the resulting warm drink. Then grab your stirring glass and drop in a couple sturdy blocks of ice. On top of the ice, throw in a dash or 2 of bitters – this helps balance the drink and give it a depth of flavour. On top of that, a teaspoon or 2 of maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like your drink. The final drink will take 2 shots of bourbon, but you want to stir them in one at a time to ensure even mixing. Stirring the drink not only chills it, but also dilutes it, this is where the quality of your ice is important, cheap ice will give you a very watery drink so be careful to not stir too long as your drink will dilute further in the glass.
Now grab your old fashioned glass and strain out any excess water left behind by the ice. Slowly strain your old fashioned into the glass allowing it to keep chilling along the way. The final step is perhaps my favourite and can even call for a little theatre. Cut yourself a piece of orange peel avoiding the white bitter part under the skin. Give the peel a nice twist over the drink allowing all those fragrant oils to settle on top of the drinks surface. Rub the skin around the rim of the glass and drop it in. Boom! If it worked for Ryan Gosling, it might do the same for you.
As with all thing, you’ll tweak your recipe to suit your tastes, but these are the basics. Be warned, these drinks are no joke, their strength is cleverly disguised by their deliciousness.
Okay. Stay fancy