Knowing how to make a good Old-Fashioned for someone who truly loves them is a very satisfying thing. At first glance it seems like it’s a relatively simple drink that should be easy to prepare. After all, it consists of only four things: bourbon, bitters, water, and sugar. Yet when done right, the flavors blend together and compliment one another so well that it’s almost like some kind of magic has happened. I start by being very careful with my ingredients, choosing a really good bourbon, well crafted bitters, real demerara sugar cubes, and an Italian maraschino cherry (as a garnish). I like to try different bourbons and bitters together to see how everyone reacts to the new combinations, and I would encourage you to do the same. That’s where this becomes really fun! As important as the ingredients are, the way in which you make the drink is just as essential. I try to think of it as a kind of ritual, making every effort to do it the same way every time. It’s a built drink (as we talked about yesterday) so it’s going to be made in the same glass in which it’ll be served.
2 oz Bourbon*
2 dashes of Aromatic bitters**
1 demerara sugar cube
1 splash of water
1 or 2 Italian maraschino cherries***
2 orange peel strips
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add two dashes of bitters and a splash of water. Muddle together until the sugar cube is almost completely dissolved. Swirl the glass a bit. Add ice (preferably one large cube) and then the bourbon. Stir the drink gently, just enough to get it chilled. Take one of the orange strips, hold it over the drink horizontally (white side toward you, orange side toward the glass) and squeeze the strip in half. You’ll see the oils hit the top of the drink. I like to add the cherries and the other orange strip right to the glass, but you can also put them on a cocktail pick if you prefer. As you’re making the drink notice how the different aromas hit your nose. First it’s the spice of the bitters, then the warmth of the Bourbon, the sweetness of the cherries, and finally the tang of the orange. Finding the right balance between all of these is where the magic takes place!
*Choose your favorite bourbon. Mine is Buffalo Trace!
**Try Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s, Bittermilk, Hella Bitters or any other hand-crafted bitters.
***I love Amarena cherries, available at Whole Foods in the cheese department.
Vintage glassware from Jinxed in Philadelphia.
If you’re already an Old-Fashioned fan, tell me what some of your favorite ingredients are!