My Old Fashioned Recipe

oldfashionedMy son, who is a bartender, introduced me to the Old Fashioned a few years ago. When I go to a bar, this is what I order. And when I want to make a cocktail, this is what I’ll make; though I have to admit that I do like a Manhattan as well. Actually, a Manhattan was my first go-to for several years. But since I discovered the Old Fashioned, well, I’d rather have one those than any other cocktail.

I have since perfected my own recipe for an Old Fashioned, and have taught it to bartenders at the bars I frequent. This recipe is actually a bit of a vamp on the Old Fashioned made at Willard Hicks in Campbell, CA. BUT, it has to be made either by one of the female bartenders. No, that’s not a sexist remark. They’re just way, way better at it than the guys there. But without further ado, here’s my recipe.

Brendan’s Old Fashioned Recipe

1 tspn sugar (turbinado or raw sugar is better if you have it)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
6 dashes Orange Bitters
1/2 tspn water
2 1/2 – 3″ long by 3/4″ strip of orange rind (use a peeler)
1″ other citrus rind (lemon, mandarin, grapefruit, etc.)1 1/2 oz of bourbon or rye or American whiskey
2 Luxardo, Maraschino or Morello cherries (optional)

In a single rocks glass, carefully pour sugar into a neat pile on the bottom of the glass. Dash the bitters over the pile and let soak for a couple of seconds. Place the orange and citrus rinds over the sugar pile, then muddle well to express the citrus oils. Once well muddled, add the water to help fully dissolve the sugar. With the muddler still in the glass, pour in the bourbon and mix with the muddler. This helps to rinse off the muddler and make sure you get all the goodness that sticks to it. Remove the muddler. Once everything is fully incorporated, add an ice globe or large ice cube, then give it a quick stir with a bar spoon, careful not to let any spill. 🙂 Finally, skewer a couple of cherries on a toothpick and place directly in the liquor. Enjoy!

I really don’t know how accurate this recipe as compared to the traditional recipe. Chances are it’s a bit off. But this is how I like my Old Fashioned, and I’ve actually taught several people this recipe after they’ve tried mine. I know that some people only muddle the pulp. But I like the bitterness of the citrus oil. It’s a nice contrast to the sweetness of the sugar, cherries and the bourbon.


Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

You just gotta love a woman who knows the little things that make her man happy. For the last year or so, my wife has helped fuel the fire of my bourbon and whiskey obsession by buying me a bottle of bourbon for special events like Christmas or my birthday. This past Fathers Day was no exception as she presented me with a bottle of Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select.

I didn’t know too much about this bourbon, but I had read somewhere that Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, so I looked forward to having a taste. And taste it I have; quite regularly in fact, to the point where I’m almost out! I really like this bourbon and I’ll probably make it part of my rotation of “regulars.”

What I Smell

When I first smelled this bourbon, one of the first things I got was a distinct ethanol hit. It made me think that it was higher in proof than its 90.4. It wasn’t bad, just surprising. Other than that, I smell honey, a hint of vanilla, a bit of orange zest and a little marzipan at the end. It’s not a complex aroma profile, but what it does have is nice and approachable.

What I Taste

I think a reason why I like this bourbon so much is that it possesses many characteristics of what I consider to be an archetypal bourbon. Sweet upfront with hints of citrus, giving way to a little allspice and mild bite mid-palate, then finishing with green bell pepper and a slightly minty feel. Throughout, you can taste the presence of oak. It’s sort of the foundation, but it’s not too “woody.” It’s just there remind you that that was aged in a barrel. 🙂

Mouthfeel is an important component to this bourbon because as it might have a bit of a bite mid-palate, this bourbon is smooooth.

How I Like to Drink It

I most commonly drink this and all my regulars with an ice globe, and will occasionally add a dash of orange bitters to emphasize the citrus component. But I absolutely adore this as the base of an Old Fashioned. As a smooth bourbon, it provides a great base for the orange rind and bitters to flourish in the drink. It’s also incredible in a mint julep, which amazingly, is a drink I just discovered.

Overall Impression

I like this bourbon – a lot! It is not the best bourbon out there, I know that. But, it suits my tastes and more importantly, as I’m a lover of an Old Fashioned, this makes a great foundation. As I mentioned above, it has earned a place in my regular rotation.

Talisker 10 Year Single Malt Scotch

talisker_10When I got this bottle as a gift from one of my son’s friends, amazingly enough, I hadn’t had it yet. Amazing since it is such a well-known brand. But hey! I got a bottle, and I have to say, it’s not a bad little scotch at all. To be completely honest, now that I’ve had it, it wouldn’t be my first choice (I’ll explain below), but it’s solid just the same.

What I Smell

The nose on this is a bit confusing to me. I smell an earthy, peaty component for sure. But there’s also a hint of iodine (not off-putting), and what I can only call an “oceanic” component; like a sea spray. It’s not so much that I can smell it, but it’s as if there’s a saltiness to it. And maybe it’s because of the slight iodine scent that reminds me of the salt marshes near where I grew up in East Palo Alto. Finally, I smell something akin to fresh-cut grass. It gives the whisky a youthful character.

What I Taste

Up front, this scotch is sweet, with notes of honey and molasses, but that quickly gives way to peat smoke that sort of builds up in intensity. It’s subtle at first but becomes more prevalent in the finish, and the iodine comes out near the end. Pretty cool effect. The other interesting thing about thing about the peat in this is that it lingers – a long time. I wasn’t expecting that because the peat is so subtle up front. If you like a peaty single malt, you’d enjoy Talisker.

How I Like to Drink It

Any scotch for me is going to be drunk neat, and this one is no exception, though I will add a couple of drops of water to help the aromas and flavors bloom. That done, the natural sweetness gets revealed even more, and it also slightly tames the peat smoke.

Overall Impression

This is a solid single malt. As I mentioned above, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but that’s personal preference. I usually like very little to no smoke (Macallan), subtle smoke (Caol Ila), or a smoke bomb (Lagavulin). For me, Talisker is a “tweener.” I actually really like it – a lot – but I do know what I prefer, and while I enjoy this single malt, given my druthers, I’d get a different bottle.

My own preferences aside, I recommend trying Talisker. As I said, it’s solid.

Old Standbys

When I wrote about wine a few years ago, a friend asked me what my “daily drinker” was. I told him that I didn’t have one, but if I was to have one, I’d probably go with some sort of Zinfandel. But to be honest, I just don’t drink every day. For one, I don’t need the calories, and two, I just can’t afford it. 🙂

It gets a little complicated if I was asked the same question with respect to whiskey. This is simply because there are lots that I like, so almost invariably, I’ll always have a couple of different bottles of Scotch, one or two bottles of Irish whiskey, and a few bottles of bourbon and maybe one or two “other” whiskeys like Tin Cup Colorado Whiskey.

But that said, there are standbys that I like to have on hand; well, not necessarily all at once, but I’ll have one or two that I keep around.

Canadian Club ~ What? You mean that cheap-ass stuff? Tell you what: This makes a fantastic Manhattan. I got introduced to this by a dear friend, Gloria Marchi, who is 85 years young, and one of my biggest fans (I’m a part-time professional singer/musician). She occasionally buys me a Manhattan, and she was introduced to them way back in the 60’s. If I want a Manhattan, yes, I could use a more expensive spirit, but my taste for Manhattans is with Canadian Club.

Bulleit Bourbon / Rye ~ I always have a bottle of one of these. It’s not so much my favorite brand,  but when I can’t make up my mind, I’ll make an Old Fashioned with this stuff.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon ~ Yeah, this stuff is a bit on the sweet side, but if I don’t have any Bulleit, I’ll usually have a bottle of this stuff on hand.

Woodford Reserve Distillers Select ~ Got this for Fathers Day this year. I like it so much, I’m almost done with the bottle. This may very well replace Bulleit as my go-to.

Caol Ila 12 Year Scotch ~ This is a mid-level Scotch that I absolutely fell in love with through my friend, Shahin Pirooz. It is mildly peaty, and for me, it’s a great end-of-day, nightcap drinker. Writing about it now reminds me that I have to pick up a bottle. But I have to finish my Port Dundas and Talisker that I got as gifts. Both of those (which I’ll eventually write about) are fine, mid-level Scotches as well.

So there you have it. You might be thinking I must be a lush, but I’m not. It actually takes me awhile to finish these, and like I said, I usually only have a couple of each on hand at a time. Right now I’m out of Bulleit and Buffalo as I’m working on the Woodford. But that’s so smooth and drinkable in so many ways, that I may just stick with that as my fallback. Great stuff!



Noah’s Mill Bourbon

noahsmillBack in January, specifically, January 5 – my birthday – my wife surprised me with a bottle of bourbon at my birthday dinner; a bourbon of which I had never tasted let alone heard. And coming from my wife whom I love deeply, but views alcohol and alcoholic beverages in a binary fashion, I was a little skeptical about getting a bottle of bourbon from her. But I smiled in loving appreciation just the same because what does it tell me about my life partner when she gifted me with that which makes me so happy? Right. She knows me well, and she knows that simple things like this remind me of why I love her so much.

Yeah, I know… Just say it: Awww….. 🙂

After dinner, I, of course, had to sample this heretofore unknown spirit. But before I opened it, I examined the bottle to see that it was 114.3 proof! Holy Shit! I thought to myself, This is going to burn!

Nevertheless, I opened the bottle, and Glencairn glass in hand poured out a finger’s worth. I noticed immediately that the bourbon is a lot lighter in color than when it sits in the green wine bottle. Not an issue, because it’s all about aroma and taste to me.

What I Smell

With my first sniff, I noticed a subtle alcohol smell. That didn’t surprise me considering the proof of this bourbon. But that quickly dissipated and I was welcomed to a nice, sweet, cinnamon and spice bouquet followed by a subtle fresh floral scent. A slight swish of the glass revealed a bit of clove or allspice and a little burnt caramel.

What I Taste

What surprised me about tasting this was that it didn’t burn nearly the amount that I was expecting. It’s warm. No getting around that, but it’s super-flavorful, much like Dave’s Insanity or Dave’s Scorpion Pepper Sauce. Pretty hot stuff, but both pack a lot of chili pepper flavor.

With Noah’s Mill, you get more of that cinnamon and sweet spice up front. About mid-palate is where you started feeling a bit of heat, with a bit citrus, amazingly enough, and the short to medium finish reveals creme brulee and vanilla.

How I Like to Drink It

  1. Neat ~ If I drink it neat, I put in a small chip of ice to help tame the heat a bit. This doesn’t so much cool the alcohol as it provides just a tiny amount of water to help the aromas and flavors bloom a bit and it does take the edge off.
  2. Mixed ~ This might be sacrilege, but I actually enjoy making either Mint Julep or an Old Fashioned with this; especially a Mint Julep.
  3. Rocks ~ I will put this over an ice globe and add a few dashes of orange bitters. This brings out the citrus.

What I’ve Found Out About It

Noah’s Mill is bottled by Willett Distilling. Apparently, they source the bourbon from other distilleries, blend it, then age it in their own facilities. The blend is a mixture of bourbons ranging in age from 4 to 20 years.

This is interesting to me because it’s possible that the flavor profile could change from release to release, much like wine blends do; though I haven’t the faintest idea of how dramatic that change would be. I’d frankly have to do a vertical flight tasting. But truth be told, I’m not sure if I’d have the patience to hold onto bottles to do that. I like to drink my bourbon.

Final Thoughts

For some reason, I’m really taken by this bourbon. By no means is it something I’d drink every day. But this is a bourbon that I like to have around and since I got that first bottle from my wife in January, as soon as it ran out last month, I immediately replaced it. Maybe it’s nostalgia because the original bottle was a love gift. But I really enjoy this bourbon, and I keep it for when I want something that has a kick, and a 6-month life cycle isn’t so bad.

Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough

I wasn’t always a whiskey drinker. In fact, my first taste of whiskey was in the form of a nasty whiskey sour on my 21st birthday that sent me running to the bathroom to retch out all the alcohol my fraternity brothers practically pumped into my system, and I stayed away from it. But one day, a friend introduced me to Macallan 12 Scotch. I was hooked, and from there I resolved to explore this incredible spirit that comes in so many forms.

To be completely honest, you won’t find me talking too much about Scotch here. I have my favorites (which I’ll talk about), but they are few. However, I love Bourbon and to a slightly lesser degree, Rye, so please excuse me if I tend to focus on those.

I’m also not a purist where I have to drink my whiskey neat. I like it neat, on the rocks, or mixed in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. And I’m also not a snob about the spirits I drink. I’ll try expensive and cheap whiskeys up and down the board. Like drinking wine, drinking whiskey is an experience.