A fall twist on the Old Fashioned cocktail
“The word ‘cocktail’ … remains one of the most elusive in the language.”
-from the book “Straight Up or On the Rocks” by William Grimes
THE AUTUMN OLD FASHIONED
This is a great treat for your fall parties.
1.5 oz to 2 oz spirit (we chose a bright rye, but barrel-aged rum and Japanese whisky do quite well for this season as well)
.25 oz to .5 oz maple syrup (or: demerara syrup)
2 to 4 dashes Pumpkin bitters (these are distilled and made from scratch from organic pumpkins and many fall herbs and spices by Workhorse Rye)
Optional: 1-2 dashes of Salted Cacao Bitters or another bitters with pronounced baking spices
Add liquid to mixing glass, then add ice, stir for 15 to 30 seconds. Pour into chilled glass with a big cube or a few one-inch cubes.
Optional: grate a dash of fresh nutmeg and express lemon.
WHAT IS AN OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL?
The first known published definition of the Cocktail as its own beverage appeared in an editorial response in a Hudson Valley, NY weekly newspaper in 1806. It responded to a reader’s inquiry about what a cocktail was: “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
The modern assumption for an Old Fashioned is rye or Bourbon, sugar, aromatic bitters, stirred in ice and strained over fresh ice, with the occasional garnish of choice such as an expressed orange peel or cherry. The drink has been consumed in this form for well over a century no doubt, and is now so ubiquitous that many people don’t know how non-specific the drink started: make any spirit more well rounded and quaffable with any type of sugar and dense botanical tinctures, and then dilute it with water or ice to approach the alcohol content of a glass of wine or sherry. Before the late 1800s this drink was called simply “cocktail”, and after that period as bartending and cocktails evolved, it was known as a simple go-to, like the Old-Fashioned folks liked.
SELECTING THE INGREDIENTS
With this fall iteration of the Old Fashioned, we focus on savory flavors from an organic spicy rye-Workhorse Rye whiskey grown and distilled in California with a focus on sustainable agriculture. This whiskey is rustic, and one could argue (such as the author who makes it) that it is a better example of what an Old Fashioned would have tasted like pre-industrial agriculture. Since this whiskey is aged in a used cask like Scotch rather than new like Bourbon, there is less sugar in the spirit. This allows the grain to be the focus as well as some room to use maple as sweetener without it becoming too rich and cloying. The bitters add a fresh herbaceous harvest aroma from real pumpkin and artichoke leaf, as well as the baking spices that we’re used to in fall drinks but they don’t steal the show. Every ingredient should sing and be noted without it getting muddy. If you want a stiff drink, go for 2 oz of a barrel aged spirit and don’t over stir. If you’d like refreshment then pick a brighter spirit like Pisco or Gin or Bacanora, and add more ice to lengthen.
Bitters are many plant tinctures that come together to form the intriguing backbone of a cocktail, the same way a spice or herb blend does for a dish. There is acidity or tannin in wine to balance the sugar of a grape, and there are hops in beer to balance the richness of barley malt sugar. So the bitters and sugar bring balance to the sting of a spirit, the idea is to make a whole spectrum in a glass starting with a distilled spirit.
Collecting the ingredients and tools online:
Bar tools and ice molds… UmamiMart.com
There’s a historian and consummate author named David Wondrich; he is a modern patron saint of cocktail knowledge and historical expertise as far as bartenders are concerned. He digs-like no one else-through very old newspapers, abandoned libraries, etc., to ascertain exactly why and how we drink certain drinks, who possibly invented them, and when they manifested. I bring this information to readers to demonstrate that cocktail history is exactly as you’d expect: collaborative, ever-evolving, and… sometimes foggy. “The history of the cocktail—has (perhaps not surprisingly) always been like this: heady with false leads and spiked with treacherous maybes.”