When All Else Fails… Old Fashioned…

I have to admit: I’m kind of obsessed with the Old Fashioned cocktail. Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking my bourbon straight, but more often than not, I’ll make an Old Fashioned.

I’m really not sure where this obsession came from, but when the chips are down, and I’m looking for a good drink, an Old Fashioned is what I’ll make or get.

Is it the sweetness? Is it the bitterness of the orange rind? Is it the nostalgia? I suppose… I really don’t know. But what I do know is that I just plain enjoy it.

My recipe is pretty straight-forward. I normally don’t use any other fruit than the orange peel. Honestly, I don’t have Luxardo cherries which is the only cherry one should use with this drink. So if I don’t have ’em, I go without. Maraschino cherries? Nah… Not the same, and WAY too sweet.

Part of why I keep it simple is that despite the drink being a cocktail, I still want to taste the bourbon. I will use rye as well, but my go-to is bourbon. There’s something about the vanilla of a bourbon that just makes the drink. Rye – at least to me – is a bit more citrusy. When I drink rye, it’s either straight or with a peel of an orange. Rarely do I drink rye neat. It’s a little too hot.

In any case, when I can’t figure out what I want to drink, I’ll go with an Old Fashioned.


Sometimes, I Just Can’t Help Myself…

Last night, I was thinking, Hmm…. what do I want for a nightcap? I knew I that I definitely wanted some kind of whiskey, so I went to my shelves. I had a bottle of Talisker 12 Scotch, but I didn’t want anything smokey because I’m in NorCal and the air is filled with smoke. I also had a nice Port Dundas Scotch, but it was a little too light bodied for my mood. I didn’t want any Evan Williams which I always have. I also had a collection of other spirits: Vodka, Rum, Gins, Cachaça. I didn’t want any of those. Then my eye caught the bottle of Bainbridge Battle Point Wheat Whiskey…

But then, I asked myself, How do I want to drink it? It’s SO good neat or with a few drops of water, but I also wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth, so I did something I thought I’d never do with this whiskey: I made an Old Fashioned with it. I just couldn’t help myself!

The result was absolutely MAG-F$^&IN’-NIFICENT!!! The whiskey is so smooth and mouth-coating. Accompanied by orange bitters and the oils from the orange zest, WOW!

I know, I know… It seems like a waste of great whiskey to make a cocktail out of it. But there’s something I’ve learned: Cocktails taste WAY better when you use high-quality ingredients. My brother once puzzled over me making a Manhattan with Basil Hayden. Being flip I answered: “1) because I can; 2) It tastes frickin’ awesome.”

I do have to admit, I had a few seconds of guilt for using Battle Point in a cocktail. But truth be told, I actually used less than a shot because I don’t like to drink a large amount before bed. Just enough to take the edge off. So I didn’t feel THAT guilty. 🙂

But there. I did it. Damn that was good!

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.