Old Fashioned’s in October – A different take on things …

by KeithP on October 19, 2011

Not a bad kick-off to our newest project.  As we’ve seen plenty of times in our adventures simple tweaks can yield interesting results and in the case of sugar cube versus sugar syrup, it was amazing to taste the two completely different flavor profiles that emerged.  Here we are on day two of Old Fashioned’s in October and already we are set to engage in what for many, will be a bout of sacrilege.  Today, we take head on that steamy debate and purposefully incorporate soda water into our recipes.

Soda water in an Old Fashioned huh?  You just got done bashing the stuff and its usage in said drink and now you’re going to offer up some alternatives for its use?  Yes and yes. It seems only fair that we give this form of the drink a try for two very important reasons.  First, this form of the drink is likely (and unfortunately) the most common form of the drink made and for us to not at least give it an attempt would by all accounts be pretending that it did not exist.  Second, it is quite possible that a version of this recipe may exist that isn’t all together abhorrent and if so, maybe we can find it, make it and drink it.  Just as I’ve had plenty of poorly made Manhattan’s in my career, I haven’t shunned drinking this libation (after all it is my fav drink) and if not, than why not?  Simple, I know that these poor efforts are likely the result of the maker’s of said abominations not preparing them properly and maybe, the poor samples presented to me of the soda water variant of the Old Fashioned were a result of poor preparation and not the recipe used?

If the above feeble attempt by your humble correspondent hasn’t convinced you that our goal is a worthy one than I turn one more time back to the pages of the book Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric for their thoughts, as expressed in their book, on why this form of the drink was worthy enough for them to include it in the pages.

“We will not simply turn a blind eye to the contemporary version of the Old Fashioned  – it was the first cocktail we were taught that used bitters.  Somewhere between the 1890’s and 1930’s, what probably started out as an ornamental garnish of orange and cherry fell into the mixing glass and got muddled with sugar and bitters.  We see evidence of this drink in Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Drinking Recipes from 1936, in which the fruit is muddled, whereas during the same period Old Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide continue to add the fruit after making the drink.  More than likely it was a trick used during Prohibition to mask poor-quality booze that stuck with many and was passed down over the generations.  Today, many look down on this version of the cocktail, mostly because of the use of commercial, artificial maraschino cherries.  Many young cocktail enthusiasts may not have enjoyed this cocktail in its original form, so we offer this restoration for them.”

Hard to quibble with their view especially as these are two of the most consummate professionals in the business.

Similar to our first post, we will be offering up two versions of this form of the recipe.  The first up is from said book, Speakeasy, and frankly isn’t all that bad.  It is clearly less boozy forward although the spirit, especially this one, is no shrinking violet.  The drink as made is quite fruity both in aroma and on the palate with the sugar enhancing this experience – but what you most definately don’t get in this version is a mashed fruit salad in the glass.   The rye is nice, lightly tamed by the dose of water used but not overwhelmed by it.  This version, if you were so inclined, is worth the effort and not at all to be tarnished by those poorly made replicas.

Old Fashioned #2
Recipe from the book “Speakeasy” and adapted by theSpeakista

•    2 1/2 oz Rittenhouse bonded rye
•    1 sugar cube
•    1 tsp superfine sugar
•    3 dashes Angostura bitters
•    2 orange half-wheels
•    4 brandied cherries
•    2 lemon twists
•    2 splashes of club soda
Garnish: see below
Glass: rocks or old fashioned glass
Tools: muddler and bar-spoon

Assembly: Muddle the sugars, bitters, 1 orange wheel, 3 of the cherries and one of the lemon twists in the bottom of the serving glass.  Discard the orange and lemon skins. Add in a splash of the club soda. Fill up the glass with large cold ice cubes, and add the whiskey on top.  Finish off with another splash of the club soda and garnish with the remaining fruit.

Our second preparation, is interesting in as much as it doesn’t come from a fine drinking establishment like Employees Only but rather from a fictional character on a cable TV show.  Several weeks back I stumbled upon a video on YouTube, a link to a scene from Mad Men; in it, one of the main characters, Don Draper, makes an Old Fashioned for himself and Conrad Hilton and it kinda resonated with me.  I’d like to think that if I had to I could leap over the bar as Don did and work up a drink for a titan of industry.  As we were prepping for this project I thought “why not” and decided to include the Don Draper Old Fashioned for your drink imbibing pleasure

Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail (Don Draper method)
Recipe adapted by theSpeakista, based on wathcing the show Mad Men (recipe is recreated)

•    2 oz Old Overholt rye whiskey (Tuthilltown Hudson Manhattan Rye was used)
•    ~1 oz soda water
•    sugar cube
•    3 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: orange wheel and cherry
Glass: rocks or old fashioned glass
Tools: mixing glass, bar-spoon and muddler

Assembly: Add the sugar cube and bitters to the serving glass and set aside.  Next add the rye and soda water to the mixing glass filled with ice and also set aside. Muddle the sugar and bitters; give the rye and soda water several stirs in their glass and pour the mixture into the serving glass, garnish and sip away.

The verdict: Hello soda water … you are definitely noticed in this version, almost too much at first.  This taste mellows after it sits/warms for a while with the rye peaking out with the fruit a bit later.  While I much prefer our first effort to Don’s, this is a much better version than prior abominations sampled.

Okay, not a bad go at soda water based version.  The first was less about the soda water which clearly shined through whereas the second, was noticeably more watered down.  Next up on our little adventure we turn back to our base formula for the first of many subtle tweaks.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

SpiritedAlchemy October 19, 2011 at 9:44 pm

At one bar I saw the bartender put a splash of soda on top of the soaked sugar cube before muddling. When this mixture is muddled it becomes sort of fizzy. I asked him why he did that and he said the soda fizzing like that helps the sugar dissolve. No idea whether this is true, but interesting justification.

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