August 31, 2003
DrinkBoy posts about a drink that we share an affection for: the Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned is as Robert describes, a drink with a venerable history to its name. I won't go into details, but do read the link for a great rundown of its history.
Instead I want to focus on the construction of the drink. Firstly, I agree that extraenous ingredients like the cherry are just un-needed. The point of an Old Fashioned, to me at least, is a more pleasurable way to drink a rough liquor, usually Bourbon (given it was after/during prohibition, where most liquors were, shall we say, hardly finished). A good old fashioned will take the edge from a good bourbon, allowing for a broader aroma to appear.
Let me take a step out a second to explain this.
Adding alcohol to spirits does a number of things, but mostly when you pour it into a glass, the first experience you get of the liquor is the intense alcoholic 'aroma'. It's the feeling that makes your eyes water when you smell a whiskey or a bourbon. (less so with the clearer [simpler] spirits).
To counter this, and allow for a greater absorbtion of the range of aromas, it's advised to 'cut' a whiskey or a bourbon with a little water. The water should be fresh, distilled water (to ensure clarity in flavor) and you should add no more than half or less the quantity of bourbon.
So you take the edge off, lose the dominant aroma, and get to taste the recessive flavors.
Ok. Back to the Old Fashioned. If I am making an old fashioned for a more experienced customer, then I will tend to use Woodford Reserve. To quote their site, Woodford Reserve is "a super-premium small batch bourbon with roots at the Labrot & Graham Distillery (circa 1812)" and "a National Historic Landmark in the bluegrass region of central Kentucky."
For all its history, it's a very cultured Bourbon, that lends itself to an Old Fashioned. (alternatively, if none is available, Wild Turkey, Bullet, and Rip Van Winkle are good. Our house pouring Bourbon is Makers Mark -- but it doesn't have the same effect.)
The construction is what makes this drink a drink to remember. I prefer to make it like this:
Take one sugar cube (brown is better) and place it on a napkin rested on top of a heavy tumbler. liberally soak the sugar in angostura bitters, making sure it's covered. Tip the sugar cube into the glass, being sure that no angostura enters the glass -- just on the sugar.
Muddle the cube into the bottom of the glass. You are turning the sugar into a rough paste here, and the more you muddle it, the more likely it'll integrate into the drink.
At this point, replace the muddler for a bar spoon, and add a couple ice cubes. Then, slowly build up the drink by adding dashes of bourbon whilst agitating the ice cubes together. This gently dilutes the bourbon, mixing in the sugar and a little water from the ice. Keep adding ice and bourbon till you have a drink that is about a half inch from the top of the glass. (You want about 50ml of Bourbon or so, which fits with ice in a standard tumbler)
If made right, you should have very little sugar, if any at all, at the bottom of the glass.
To finish the drink, obtain a fresh orange peel, rim the glass with both sides of the peel, and twist into the drink.
This method serves to gently encourage each element to merge together, without the gross dilution that would be achieved by shaking it. Made well, this potent cocktail is a perfect end to a great evening.
listed below are links to sites that reference A True Old Fashioned:
» the old fashioned from the anti-mega outboard brain
» Meet from Cruft