Cocktails have experienced a resurgence of interest in the recent past. As people have become much more food conscious, the natural progression from that is to a recipe involving alcohol. This is evident in the local distilleries that are cropping up, with whiskey and gin in particular enjoying this renaissance.
An Old Fashioned is as classic as they come. I was first introduced to it some time back by my friend Kieran (who still makes the best one) and this post is as the result of a couple of requests for drinks based recipes. This is a sophisticated drink, one to be long savoured and enjoyed. It’s a fine but incredibly simple balance incorporating sweet notes, bitters, citrus, water and whiskey. Its simplicity also means that you should taste the alcohol in this one, this isn’t your “this tastes like fruit juice until I get up to leave” version of a cocktail. This one means business from the outset, unapologetic but smooth.
My philosophy regarding food holds the same for cocktails and that is; the end product is the sum of the ingredients that goes into it. As the main event player here is the whiskey don’t ruin it by adding really cheap bourbon. It does not however need to be top of the range either and a Jim Beam or better yet a Woodford Reserve would be my choices.
There are many schools of thought on this classic; Bourbon or rye, sugar cubes or simple syrup, soda or none, orange rind or none, what type of bitters, a cherry or not? This is how I like my Old Fashioned to be prepared and served. Too sweet? Lower the amount of simple syrup. Not a fan of cherries? Leave it out. There are general rules, it’s up to you to fill in the gaps. If you’re a whiskey fan then this is the natural next step. Bourbon is classic. Try a rye whiskey or an aged Tennessee (That’s Jack Daniels to you and I) or even an Irish whiskey. Whatever way you enjoy it, enjoy it.
If you are serious about your cocktails then this little syrup is invaluable and decanted into a bottle will keep in your fridge almost indefinitely. For me, putting a sugar cube or granulated sugar into the bottom of the glass and hoping it will combine with your cocktail is folly. Sugar will not dissolve in a cold liquid and so you are left with an inadequately sweetened drink and a sugary glumpy mess at the bottom of the glass. This syrup eliminates that problem. As with your cocktail feel free to experiment here. Use brown sugar instead of white for a deeper molasses flavour. Why not try out a different ratio combination of 1½ parts, or even 2 parts, sugar to 1 part water? For simplicity I’m using a ratio of 1:1 and using a white granulated sugar. It is simple after all.
Place both the sugar and the water into a saucepan, bring to the boil and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before decanting into a small glass bottle.
1 tbsp simple syrup
a peel of orange rind
3-4 dashes of bitters e.g. Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s etc.
1 maraschino cocktail cherry