Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

maggiethecat

The Old Fashioned Cocktail: The Topic

Recommended Posts

Andy:

Go ahead. Be a curmudgeon. I don't have a problem with being a purist. But sometimes when you're really weeded at the service bar at 8:30 on a Saturday night, this is helpful and efficient. And as I mentioned, it does duty for Champagne cocktails and other applications as well. For home use, perhaps not necessary, but in a high volume environment, sometimes a necessary evil. And the syrup is delicious. I'm finding new ways to play with it all the time.

When I was weeded at the service well tonight (at around 9) I made the concession of using rich syrup in OFs rather than crushing a cube each time. Not saying the syrup doesn't have merits, but I just don't think it is a worthwhile shortcut to take. Premixing things to save time is a dangerous path that breeds things like sour mix.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Enjoying an aquavit Old Fashioned with Skane, Angostura, and gum syrup. While I certainly appreciate the importance of keeping the Old Fashioned old fashioned, it is a drink where gum syrup truly contributes something wonderful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If syrup was good enough for Embury, it's good enough for me. I'm not sure I see the benefit of sugar cubes beyond placating that nagging purist demon perched on my shoulder.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If syrup was good enough for Embury, it's good enough for me. I'm not sure I see the benefit of sugar cubes beyond placating that nagging purist demon perched on my shoulder.

There isn't one, except that it is a precisely measured amount of sugar. For me though, placating my inner purist is reason enough. I used to make OFs exclusively with syrup. About a year and a half ago I rediscovered the joys of making them from scratch and it was a sort of return to basics time for me in the craft anyways so it has a sort of existential level of significance to me personally. An Old-Fashioned is I think as good a test as any for any bartender who takes drink-making seriously. There's not only one way to do it correctly, or even deliciously, but I think you can gain significant insight into a bartender's philosophy from how they make an Old Fashioned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
An Old-Fashioned is I think as good a test as any for any bartender who takes drink-making seriously. There's not only one way to do it correctly, or even deliciously, but I think you can gain significant insight into a bartender's philosophy from how they make an Old Fashioned.

And how I do that for recreational use or when I have the time to discuss it with my guest and really tell them what that's about is very different than being functional in the heat of service on a busy shift in a high volume restaurant. Doesn't mean I'm not taking it seriously, nor that I don't recognize the difference. In fact, I think I'm finding the very best/most flavorful possible shortcut given the circumstances. I'm still muddling real brandied cherries with a wee bit of the brandy and a fresh wedge of orange in that Old Fashioned mix. The waitstaff and the unrelenting/merciless service bar printer couldn't give a fig about whether I'm muddling a sugar cube or not, and I/my cohorts have to stay ahead of drowning in a sea of service tickets. There are two bartenders serving both the dining room and the bar guests and trying to stay out of each other's way and remain efficient and speedy. It is what it is. If I worked at Violet Hour, Pegu Club or Death & Co. I'd have the luxury of having both the guests and the staff know that they'd have to wait for their drinks to be "created" or "conjured up". Sadly, it's not a luxury I live with at the moment. :shrug: We do our best to overcome adversity...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just to clarify, my thoughts on the construction of this cocktail are not intended as an affront to anyone's professionalism or dedication to the craft--just my opinions. I confess that here in Texas the drinking public is only vaguely aware of a drink called the Old Fashioned, without much idea of what it is or why it is significant. If I am to introduce it to them properly, I feel like I have to do it The Hard Way, to drive home the higher significance the drink has to history. This is not the kind of thing that is ordered very often by people at tables in the dining room, it is normally the kind of thing that I am pushing on people sitting at the bar, trying my damnedest to wean them off of Crown and Coke.

I am enthusiastic user of syrups of all kind, which I can make in creative flavors and concentrations to expand the palette I have to work with. They also have limitations, though, and it seems to me that the OF mix outlined above would make a much sweeter drink than I am accustomed to but this is a matter of taste, of course. As I typically don't include fruit unless requested by the customer, sugar is the only thing I am muddling anyway.

And how I do that for recreational use or when I have the time to discuss it with my guest and really tell them what that's about is very different than being functional in the heat of service on a busy shift in a high volume restaurant. Doesn't mean I'm not taking it seriously, nor that I don't recognize the difference. In fact, I think I'm finding the very best/most flavorful possible shortcut given the circumstances. I'm still muddling real brandied cherries with a wee bit of the brandy and a fresh wedge of orange in that Old Fashioned mix.

Ms. Loeb, I hope that you are not as offended by my remarks as it seems. I think that this is actually a good example of what I was trying to say about philosphies--you have a clear and laudible emphasis on making sure that everyone has a drink, and that it has been made in a unique way, with items that you have made ahead of time (Cherries) with great thought and care. I am more likely to make the next person wait their turn while I perform as much "show" as time allows while making someone's drink in front of them. When the next person gets their turn, they get the same treatment. Neither way is better, it is just a different philosophy. It was certainly not my intent to imply a lack of seriousness on anyone's part, especially yours.

Clearly during the midweek dinner rush when I am by myself and have 14 people sitting at my bar and the restaraunt is on a wait and the printer is buzzing incessantly, folks aren't going to get the full 20 min shpiel on the Old Fashioned's place in American history :sad:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

the bar i'm working now is impossibly busy and besides making drinks you are also the host and work the phones which ring a lot. we probably should have been beer and wine only. to keep it all possible i batch the two straight spirit drinks.

old fashioned

18 oz. bourbon (grand dad)

4.5 oz. simple syrup*

1.25 oz. angostura bitters

get it on the rocks by any means necessary

express orange oil over it for top notes.

*a little matilde pear liqueur goes into the sugar blend (maybe .75 oz. out of 4.5) to create a slightly more fun fruit expression.

the other bartender just pours it on the rocks. i manage to stir it with ice and strain it over fresh ice. i swear by the weighted stirring pitchers so i can multi task by while stirring without knocking anything over. because it is batched we also can top people up or make very tiny ones. we fly through them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps this belongs in a sugar / syrup thread, but I am just NOT a fan of the sugar cube in OF/Sazerac type cocktails. I have had so many OF's and Sazeracs in any number of outstanding bars, and it seems like every time I get one at a place that uses cubes, I am served a glass with a significant amount of undissolved sugar at the bottom. I've heard the argument that the sugar eventually dissolves, but unless I stir it a ton, it just doesn't happen. And personally, less than 1 cube to 2 oz of booze is too dry, and 2 cubes would be too much.

I understand the various sides of the cube/syrup debate. But among the craft cocktail bars I've been to in LA, SF, NYC, Seattle, Denver and London, I've had maybe only one or two over sweetened OF's made with syrup, and I have had way too many under sweetened or gritty cocktails. If many of the top places around the country can't seem to execute the sugar cube consistently, then why bother?

I think a barspoon of 2:1 demerrara sugar syrup to 2 oz of booze will do anytime.

On another note, I've noticed several drinks on menus as said bars that are basically OF's with a liqueur as the sweetener. Varnish in LA has the Hunter, which is Rye/Heering/Ango. I know I've seen and had several others, with Chartreuse, Benedictine, etc. I seem to recall Dave Wondrich mentioned an Esquire a while back that he would order a DIY OF in less than ideal cocktail situations: "Elijah Craig 12 on the rocks, with a splash of Cointreau, and a couple dashes of bitters." (maybe it was GraMa, I can't remember).

Then again, I just polished of a pretty outstanding Sazerac (1.5 oz Rittenhouse BIB, .5 oz '08 Stagg, 4 dashes peychauds, 2 ango, lemon - rinse of 50/50 Vieux Pontarlier/St. George), so maybe I'm not so objective right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy:

I'm not offended nor did I believe you were impugning my professionalism. We clearly work both in very different sorts of restaurant settings, as well as in different cities with different tastes, different levels of customer cocktail knowledge and commonly ordered items. Believe me, nothing pleases me more than having the time to geek out with a bar guest and get up close and personal with them about their Old Fashioned or whatever it is they're consuming that night, and putting on that "show" for each and every bar guest. But part of my job is trying to streamline procedures and such so that even the highest volume evening with the highest maintenance mix of items ordered can be handled efficiently and speedily. Sometimes I have to cut a couple of corners (compared to the standard Old School preparation methods) to do that, but I still try to make everything with fresh, real ingredients (no polluting of cocktails with artificially colored and flavor Maraschino cherries or bottled lime cordial in the gimlets on my watch) that taste like fresh real ingredients. I'm flattered you believe I've brandied the cherries myself, but for the record we use the La Parisienne brandied cherries. They are consistent and delicious and actually resemble something that was once an organic object hanging off of a tree...

I have to agree with Campus Five's comments about the gritty/oversweetened OF's that result from the muddled sugar cubes. I'm a big fan of using the syrup for consistencies sake as well. The syrup mixes through the drink more evenly and the drink tastes delicious from the first sip to the last without a puddle of sugary sludge at the bottom of it. And if everyone is using the same measurements then no matter which bartender's shift it is that night, the customer's drink tastes just like it did the last time they ordered it. That's most certainly another important reason I make and use the syrup.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re: Cube(s) vs. Syrup, there's an excellent post on the Beta Cocktails blog that attempts to refute the various reasons people cite for preferring sugar cubes to simple syrup.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bostonapothecary: What kind of weighted pitchers are you using?

And this might be better in a separate syrup thread, but anyway: can anyone tell me the problem with making simple syrup using hot or boiling water?

I have heard a lot about the the superiority of cold-processed (ie, dissolved by shaking at room temperature) simple syrups but I am not sure what the advantage is. Help?


Edited by Kohai (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[C]an anyone tell me the problem with making simple syrup using hot or boiling water?

I have heard a lot about the the superiority of cold-processed (ie, dissolved by shaking at room temperature) simple syrups but I am not sure what the advantage is. Help?

Here's a good summary, "[H]ot process, vs. cold process — will have a dramatic effect on the flavor & consistency of your syrup. Heated syrup will be thinner, due to a higher presence of fructose, whereas syrup dissolved at room temperature will be nice and thick, and 100% sucrose."

Many also say they can taste a decidedly "cooked" flavor in heated syrups.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...it is normally the kind of thing that I am pushing on people sitting at the bar, trying my damnedest to wean them off of Crown and Coke.

I've never been to Texas, but from what I've seen and heard, that's quite a formidable task you've set for yourself, there! Safe to say you don't work at Billy Bob's?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...it is normally the kind of thing that I am pushing on people sitting at the bar, trying my damnedest to wean them off of Crown and Coke.

I've never been to Texas, but from what I've seen and heard, that's quite a formidable task you've set for yourself, there! Safe to say you don't work at Billy Bob's?

Yeah, it's not easy--Texans are generally quite set in their ways. We've made excellent progress though, I think. In three years open we've gone from going through about a case of Crown Royal a month to a reasonable rate of about 3 bottles a month, and our cocktails, including Old Fashioneds, have a modest but loyal following. We recently had a dinner with Buffalo Trace, tasting through 7 of their offerings including 3 of the '09 Antique Collection releases. I view having had a tasting for American Whiskey, which lacks the cachet of Scotch and the 'smoothness' of Canadian whisky, sell out with a standby list, to be a huge success in the mission to get people to drink better.

Long way to go yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We recently had a dinner with Buffalo Trace, tasting through 7 of their offerings including 3 of the '09 Antique Collection releases.

The Antique Collection stuff is delicious and was my favorite table at Philadelphia Whiskey Fest last November.

I view having had a tasting for American Whiskey, which lacks the cachet of Scotch and the 'smoothness' of Canadian whisky, sell out with a standby list, to be a huge success in the mission to get people to drink better.

Good on 'ya! That is indeed fantastic and we are forever on the "mission" to get folks to drink better. Speaking as one that's been pushing that rock uphill here in Philly for quite some time (with the added joys of the state run monopoly known as the PLCB thrown in) I applaud your choice to have the dinner and congratulate you on the sellout.

Long way to go yet.

Amen Brother. Always true...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having moved from Chicago to Milwaukee, it's been interesting in the realm of the Old-Fashioned. At the Violet Hour, we made an Old-Fashioned the old-fashioned way, according to the 1806 recipe: bitters, sugar, water, spirit. We added an orange peel for garnish. I love my Old-Fashioned's with Old Weller Antique 107, Rittenhouse Rye 100, Russell's Reserve Rye, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon, to name a few. I like a combination of 2 or 3 bitters and demerara or another turbinado syrup.

The first time someone in Wisconsin asked me for an "Old-Fashioned Sweet" I had no idea what she meant. The first rule in Wisconsin is: an Old-Fashioned is Brandy, not Whiskey. And for a "sweet" Old Fashioned, 7-up is topped. Then someone ordered the Old-Fashioned Sour, which is topped with 50/50 soda! When someone simply orders an Old-Fashioned, they want it topped with seltzer. Generally, someone ordering an Old-Fashioned, not sweet or sour, wants it garnished with olives! The basic recipe until the soda is added is a cherry (which if you use Griotine cherries makes an interesting cocktail), an orange, and a sugar cube are muddled, then Brandy (I like Paul Masson) is added along with a dash of Angostura (I also add a dash of Regan's Orange Bitters). Then ice, and soda of choice. I generally swap the sugarcube for simple syrup or demerara.

We are doing a cocktail dinner at Bacchus on the 19th of March and one of the courses is New vs. Old. Dueling Old Fashioned's. One a Wisconsin Brandy Old-Fashioned Sour, the other a Bourbon Old-Fashioned circa 1806.

Ira

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

File this under "quibbling", but wouldn't a circa-1806 version simply be called a "Bourbon Cocktail" (or "Cock-tail")?

It's true that they are almost identical (the OF's lemon/orange twist being the differentiating feature), but in historical terms, wasn't the Old-Fashioned Cocktail a variation on the original Cocktail? It's my understanding that the OF came later, when there were "new-fashioned" cocktails (Improveds, Fancys, etc.) with which to be "old-fashioned" in comparison. This is something that I believe Mr. Wondrich has stated earlier in this thread, as well as in Imbibe.

All that aside, I'd be very curious to know which version your audience prefers. In my experience one taste of the "real thing", old-school and well-made, will cause people to forever forswear the garbage and the soda water.


Edited by Kohai (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, be sure in that 1806 cock-tail to use extremely minimally aged whiskey (or gin) and garnish it with nutmeg, not citrus peel. Oh yeah, no cheating by using ice, either :wink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I always wonder about the Brandy Old-Fashioned.

Everyone always sez it came about because of Korbel, blah, blah, blah, and the 1893 Columbian Expo.

Personally, I kind of wonder. The French were, after all, the first to settle Wisconsin.

I almost wonder if, as with the Sazerac, the Brandy Old-Fashioned may have been the original version of the drink.

Of course I have absolutely no concrete data to back this up.

As for me, I'll stick with, "Rye Whiskey Old-Fashioned, light water," and leave the garbage in the garnish tray.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All that aside, I'd be very curious to know which version your audience prefers. In my experience one taste of the "real thing", old-school and well-made, will cause people to forever forswear the garbage and the soda water.

In my experience, people from WI who grew up watching their parents and grandparents drinking brandy OF's this way tend to be very wedded to them. Often, I'll talk to people about how I like an OF (rye, rich dem syrup, bitters, lemon twist) and the history behind it and they kind of smile and nod their head. Later, if I mention it again, it's like I never said anything. There's a really strong tradition of brandy OF's and even brandy Manhattans in WI--they might like the spirit-bitter-sugar-twist cocktail, but I'd be willing to wager they wouldn't recognize it as an Old Fashioned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2 oz Inner Circle Green rum, touch of Grand Marnier, dash of Fee's WBA 2009 Bitters, Ti Punch slice of lime. Fashioned, not quite old, not quite new.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made a Ti Punch with Smith & Cross last week that was ... interesting. I consider myself quite fond of that bottle, but even I had to admit it was a challenging assault flavorwise. When I fully recover, maybe I'll give S&C the old fashioned treatment as above.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2 oz Inner Circle Green rum, touch of Grand Marnier, dash of Fee's WBA 2009 Bitters, Ti Punch slice of lime. Fashioned, not quite old, not quite new.

2 oz Smith & Cross, dash of Prunier d'Orange, squirt of lemon, Hess House and Fee's orange bitters. Thanks for the notion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A potent, smoky improved bourbon Old Fashioned tonight:

2 1/2 oz Bulleit

1/2 oz Peat Monster

-1/2 oz gum syrup

dash Luxardo maraschino

dash Kübler absinthe

2 dashes Fee's 2007 OF WBA bitters

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×