Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Next Battleground: The Old Fashioned

Yes! 19th Century Old Fashioned

In recent years, we historically minded bartenders have fought the good fight for the case of the Martini.  A Martini is a drink consisting of Gin, Vermouth and sometimes bitters with a twist.  They are not made with vodka and no vermouth, and they are not Dirty.  They certainly DO NOT have any fruity thing like Apple pucker, pom or choco tacked on to the front of them.  They can be served in a martini glass, though I prefer an classic Nick & Nora.  If you like Vodka in a martini glass with no vermouth, you just ordered chilled Vodka in a Martini glass.  That, in no way, is a Martini.  If you do not like the taste of vermouth (and I keep my vermouth chilled and fresh so you really should like its delicious taste) then no amount should go into your Vodka drink.  Since Vodka, by its very nature, has no odor or taste, it won't matter if I make your drink "dry" or extra dry.  I splash or a full ounce, all you will taste will be vermouth.   

I could go on, but you know what I am talking about, right?  PS...if you really are afraid of Gin, try my Vesper.  It has converted 9 out of 10 dirty vodka drinkers when made by my hands.  What really helps is the story, and that is where we bartenders can flourish and nail the sale.

Em..No, thanks. 20th Century Old Fashioned.
While this battle obviously rages on, I see a new battlefield opening up.  The Old Fashioned.  I'll admit, as a young drinker, I was besotted with that mush of orange and cherry.  It was like a Shirley Temple for grown ups.  I always knew it was too sweet and asked for extra bitters and eventually requested no sugar at all.  Extra bitters, no sugar, nice cherries, bitter orange rind, the 20th Century Old Fashioned (as we called it at Fort Defiance) is not a terrible drink in the right hands.  Some drinks still demand this fruity slush, such as the Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned.

But a true Old Fashioned is from the 19th century and one of the oldest cocktails ever made, hence the name and the fabulous story that goes with it.  Bartenders...convert your customers with the story of how the Old Fashioned got its name and see your educated customers flourish with your sales.

The Story of the Old Fashioned

May 13th, 1806 Hudson, NY- the first recorded date of the definition of the word cocktail.   Spirit, bitters, sugar, water.  Boom.  That is it easy peasy.  It was basically a bittered Sling.  It was a drink, singular, like the Martini, not a class of drinks (see above).  Introduce ice and fresh citrus peel and you have got a more modern looking Cocktail.  More specifically, you have what we at Fort Defiance called the 19th Century Old Fashioned.  But when did the drink become old fashioned?  Well flash forward to the 1860's-1880's.  This is bartending's first golden age, the days of Jerry Thomas, Only William and the Bon Vivants.  You have all sorts of mustachioed barkeeps in vests and diamond stick pins making all sorts of drinks, lighting Blue Blazer's on fire and putting on a show behind the bar (sound familiar?).  Well an old timer would stumble into one of these new-fanagled saloons and order a Cocktail, you know, the DRINK.  Well these wise ass bartenders or "Mixologysts", as they called themselves, would ask what kids of fancy cocktail the old timer wanted.  After all they were trained and well versed in all sorts of cocktail creations, fizzes, flips, bucks, improved cocktails etc...

"No!  Just stop high there, fancy pants!", I imagine the salty old timer saying.  "I just want a cocktail, an OLD FASHIONED cocktail!"  There is the magical moment in the story.  "And shave that mustache, you hippie", he might have added in my imagination.

And there is how the Old Fashioned got its name.  So mix one up...its so easy to do at home and I can do it even when the cupboards are bare.  That reason is probably why the Old Fashioned is the most popular drink in this household.  The cupboards are often bare.  

Raise a glass to the old timers who just want an Old Fashioned cocktail!

The 19th Century Old Fashioned
2 oz Spirit (Whiskey, rum, tequila, gin etc...)
sugar cube or bar spoon of simple syrup or maple or honey
Bitters (oh just have fun and pick 1 or 2)
Citrus Twist

Build in an Old Fashioned glass (duh) and stir in big rocks.  Twist a spiral or large swath of citrus.  Mostly Lemon, but lime for rum is awesome and grapefruit for tequila and mezcal rocks my world.  This drink gets better as it sits.

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