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  • Writer's pictureMax Telemaque

The Old Fashioned

Inspired by episode 1 of the Cocktail College podcast, I spent about a week working on the old fashioned. While it's impossible to master something in a week, my goal was to dive into the components of the cocktail and understand how each part complements the others. In particular, I focused on the various sweeteners that can be used in this classic cocktail. As far as I'm aware, the original and most widely accepted sweetener is a single sugar cube, however, different people have different opinions on the ideal sweetener for the drink. Some use loose sugar, others prefer to use simple syrup over the cube and some people go ultra creative with entirely different sweeteners for the drink. Many of these slight variations follow a similar framework consisting of spirit (usually rye although I prefer bourbon), bitters, and sugar. For my experimenting, I stuck to this general format with the following ratios:

-2 oz Spirit

-2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

-2 Dashes Orange Bitters

-Sweetener (for base, let's call it 1 sugar cube)

The simple composition of the old fashioned forces you to really focus on the construction of the drink and complete each step with purpose and choose each ingredient with intention as to taste the effect of each. The old fashioned highlights the spirit chosen so it's the perfect showcase for one of your favorites. During this week, I stuck to Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey while I experimented with my sweeteners. For my choice of bitters, I went with the tried and true Angostura branded orange and aromatic bitters. Of the different sweeteners I tried, my favorite was the La Perruche Pure Cane Brown Sugar Cubes (link). While I love sipping tasty cocktails, I think what most intrigues me is the intention behind each step of the process and seeing how they affect the final production. Whether it's the shaking technique or the order in which you add the ingredients, there are so many little nuances that add to the whole experience. With the old fashioned, each step, when done intentionally, can create a lovely experience for the consumer whether that be yourself or your guests. While I used to always start my drinks pouring the spirit first, I recently learned that adding the cheapest ingredients first can save you from some costly mistakes. Here, we start with the sugar and the bitters.

In a mixing glass, add a single sugar cube and dowse it in the bitters. I believe it was from the Cocktail College podcast, I also add a bar spoon of club soda. Muddle this into a almost a paste like texture, trying to dissolve as much of the sugar as you can. I've used both my muddler and my bar spoon for this. Some people prefer to use simple syrup as not to have any grains of sugar present in the final drink. While true, it's also just nice to go through this step of dowsing the sugar in the bitters and muddling it down before adding the bourbon. Once this is done, I then add the bourbon and some block ice cubes and stir for 20-30 seconds to chill and dilute. It helps to have all of your tools chilled to get bring the cocktail down to the optimal temperature for consumption. For serving, I always try and serve over clear ice with a cherry and/or orange peel.

My Ideal Old Fashioned

-2 oz Bourbon

-2 dashes aromatic bitters

-2 dashes orange bitters

-1 brown pure cane sugar cube

-1 bar spoon of club soda

For the other variations, I tried over this week I swapped the sugar cube with:

-1 heaping bar spoon white sugar

-1 heaping bar spoon brown sugar

-1 bar spoon of Luxardo cherry syrup (the stuff in the jar of cherries) -- I credit this one to an Instagram Reel of Ana De Armas making her ideal old fashioned

I recommend playing around with all of the ingredients (I know I will be), and finding what you like best. I don't think everyone with have the same exact construction of the old fashioned and each will have their own unique characteristics, both good and bad.

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