I like bourbon. I really, really like bourbon. My favorite bourbon recipe is a simple one: Lowball glass. Ice. Bourbon. That’s it. While I appreciate the complexities of the flavors while drinking bourbon straight up, and will do so on occasion, I like the way the ice cuts the burn ever-so-slightly as it melts its way into the drink.I also like coffee. My favorite coffee recipe is a simple one: Coffee cup. Coffee. That’s it. My father, a very practical man, made me learn to drink coffee black when I decided, during a self-imposed fit of “maturity” at age 14, to hit the morning coffee pot. He looked over his newspaper and said to me, “If you’re going to drink coffee, learn to drink it black. You never know if someone is going to have cream or sugar in the house.”
But on occasion, I like to get a triple grand mocha latte whip delight, or some other coffee drink laden with sugar and cream. And I also sometimes like to get a bourbon cocktail, maybe a simple Jim Beam and Coke on a college football Saturday, or one of my favorite classic cocktails, an Old Fashioned.The Old Fashioned, as you might surmise by the name, is one of the original cocktails from back when the word “cocktail” was coined. The cocktail is a decidedly American invention, and the Old Fashioned is the grandaddy of them all. The original Old Fashioned recipe is a simple one: A sugar cube muddled in three dashes of bitters (I prefer Peychaud’s Bitters), 3 ounces of bourbon, try Knob Creek Single Barrel or Elmer T. Lee, and ice in a cocktail glass, Add a lemon twist and you have a classic Old Fashoined. In a similar way that the sugar and cream flavor my familiar black coffee into a different caffeinated treat, the sugar and bitters add a subtle boost of flavor to the familiar taste of my favorite bourbon. For a different taste, try using rye whiskey, like Sazerac 18 year old Rye if you’re feeling fancy, or Jim Beam Rye if you’re old fashioned about your drinking budget.
Back when I started tending bar in the fern-bar-saturated metroplex of DFW, I learned to muddle a pack of sugar with bitters, an orange slice and one of those fake maraschino cherries that you put in a Shirley Temple. If that’s how you like your Old Fashioned, that’s fine with us at Drink Music City, we are not liquor snobs in any way. But if you’re going to drink it that way, you should know the history behind it. Mr. Bennigan and Mr. Applebee didn’t get together and invent that fruity concoction. It was born from the prohibition days, when many a classic cocktail recipe was modified using fruits and sugar and juices just to be able to get the foul illegal hooch down the gullet without gagging.
So next time you’re out around town, try an Old Fashioned for a classic cocktail sipping experience. My favorites are found at Flyte, Whiskey Kitchen, and of course, Patterson House. I’m sure there are plenty of other places around town that make a fine classic Old Fashioned. Or get a fruity one at Fridays. Either way, it’s a refreshing twist on your favorite whiskey drink.
I’ve never been to Wisconsin. I hear they make Old Fashioneds with brandy and 7-up. I wonder if there is cheese involved.