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maggiethecat

The Old Fashioned Cocktail: The Topic

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Taking all that into account and then looking at this family of drinks from the other side of the coin it'd be impossible to argue that a drink consisting of *base spirit, **sugar, ***bitters and ****water is not an Old-Fashioned Cocktail. That's the mixological stand-point ticked.

Other than that we can apply our own logic and taste to what we expect from an Old-Fashioned Cocktail...

As I've been saying all along you're applying a strict definition to a style of drink that doesn't have a strict definition. History tells us that, and our understanding of the drink from a mixological standing also backs that up.

*Tequila & Mezcal or Brandy & Curacao

**Agave or sugar syrup

***Orange Bitters or Boker's Bitters

****Ice

Except you can't walk into any bar on earth and get Gin*/Cherry Heering*/Ginger Syrup** & Peychaud's*** stirred with ice**** by ordering an Old Fashioned. So, what's the worth in grasping at straws to call it one after the fact? At some point your argument breaks down. There is a limited amount of customization that this cock-tail (in particular) will take...because there are definitions and a lexicon that developed to discuss the various types of adulterations that the cock-tail underwent, as Dave's post above elucidates.

A perfectly good name exists for your old-fashioned + curacao, I don't know why you're so opposed to using it.

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Which bring us back to Sam's question:

But we all know that the addition of vermouth gives you a different drink family, which although it is technically still a Cock-tail, is now considered a separate family altogether (Martini-Manhattan-etc.)

Except you can't walk into any bar on earth and get Gin*/Cherry Heering*/Ginger Syrup** & Peychaud's*** stirred with ice**** by ordering an Old Fashioned. So, what's the worth in grasping at straws to call it one after the fact? At some point your argument breaks down.

Why can't you? There are Old-Fashioned Cocktail variants available in bars across the World .

It's a bit silly to say my argument breaks down considering yours is based around what you get when you walk into a bar and order an Old Fashioned. Any one of us could walk into fifty different bars in Scotland, England, the US, Germany and France, order an Old-Fashioned in each and never be given the same drink twice.

You see an Old-Fashioned as nothing but whisk(e)y, sugar, water and bitters which is fine, but it's simply not the case as has been pointed out in this thread countless times.

A perfectly good name exists for your old-fashioned + curacao, I don't know why you're so opposed to using it.

I am not opposed to using anything, it is you who is saying that it is not an Old-Fashioned Cocktail when the fact of the matter tells you otherwise. ;)

As I've been saying all along you're applying a strict definition to a style of drink that doesn't have a strict definition.

I'm intrigued to know what you'd get in your house if you asked for a cup of tea...


Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Except you can't walk into any bar on earth and get Gin*/Cherry Heering*/Ginger Syrup** & Peychaud's*** stirred with ice**** by ordering an Old Fashioned. So, what's the worth in grasping at straws to call it one after the fact? At some point your argument breaks down.

Why can't you? There are Old-Fashioned Cocktail variants available in bars across the World .

It's a bit silly to say my argument breaks down considering yours is based around what you get when you walk into a bar and order an Old Fashioned. Any one of us could walk into fifty different bars in Scotland, England, the US, Germany and France, order an Old-Fashioned in each and never be given the same drink twice.

Because while there are millions of ways to make the old-fashioned within the actual confines of the four ingredients of the drink, Cherry Heering doesn't enter into any of them (in the minds of anyone but yourself, as far as I can tell). I've ordered cocktails in all the countries you mention, not to mention Ireland, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan...never have I seen anything close to the drink I mentioned above referenced as an old-fashioned. The mind should recoil...

You see an Old-Fashioned as nothing but whisk(e)y, sugar, water and bitters which is fine, but it's simply not the case as has been pointed out in this thread countless times.

A perfectly good name exists for your old-fashioned + curacao, I don't know why you're so opposed to using it.

I am not opposed to using anything, it is you who is saying that it is not an Old-Fashioned Cocktail when the fact of the matter tells you otherwise. ;)

No, I don't...in fact, I love rum, tequila and genever old-fashioneds. You haven't pointed out anything except the fact that you disagree, against all evidence to the contrary, that the definition of an old fashioned precludes the inclusion of ingredients beyond those that define the drink. It's in its very nature to preclude gilding. The only "fact of the matter" I can see is that you're the only person here who seems to think that it would be perfectly reasonable for a bartender to serve you an Fancy Cock-tail or something even more outlandish when you order an Old-Fashioned.

As I've been saying all along you're applying a strict definition to a style of drink that doesn't have a strict definition.

I'm intrigued to know what you'd get in your house if you asked for a cup of tea...

When I admit there are countless variations of the drink, I hardly consider it "strict"...the fact that I'm trying to apply ANY definition, appears to be what's concerning you. Tea doesn't enter into it...get back to me when there's such abuse to the traditional means of tea preparation that people who enjoy it are forced to start calling it something else to specifically refer to the traditional manner of preparation, then we can talk about tea. But, needless to say, if I requested tea, I wouldn't abide receiving lemonade.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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Hm, tea old fashioned.

Interesting idea.

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Hm, tea old fashioned.

Interesting idea.

Jeremiah Weed or Firefly?

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Because while there are millions of ways to make the old-fashioned within the actual confines of the four ingredients of the drink, Cherry Heering doesn't enter into any of them (in the minds of anyone but yourself, as far as I can tell). I've ordered cocktails in all the countries you mention, not to mention Ireland, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan...never have I seen anything close to the drink I mentioned above referenced as an old-fashioned. The mind should recoil...

You're forgetting that it was you who brought up the Cherry Heering recipe and not me. Still not sure what your point is here though.

And I'd also be intrigued to hear about the Old-Fashioned you were given in Vietnam...

No, I don't...in fact, I love rum, tequila and genever old-fashioneds. You haven't pointed out anything except the fact that you disagree, against all evidence to the contrary, that the definition of an old fashioned precludes the inclusion of ingredients beyond those that define the drink. It's in its very nature to preclude gilding. The only "fact of the matter" I can see is that you're the only person here who seems to think that it would be perfectly reasonable for a bartender to serve you an Fancy Cock-tail or something even more outlandish when you order an Old-Fashioned.

You're the only one who doesn't qualify the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned as an Old-Fashioned...

The only evidence that has been presented in this thread is that the definition is not as strict as you're making it out to be.

I am not talking about outlandish drinks like you keep suggesting, my point throughout has been about the addition of Curacao to a Cock-tail and how that is still technically an Old-Fashioned (because that is just a term to describe a Cock-tail). There is nothing in this thread or in any of the literature I own or have read that suggests otherwise, in fact, it backs up what I've been saying. You only need to read Dave's post to see that.

This then moved onto the fact (again which is undeniable) that the definition is not strict. Remember that the Cock-tail was a morning drink which I'm sure people would take however the hell they liked it. The Old-Fashioned Cock-tail is a family of drinks, not a recipe.

When I admit there are countless variations of the drink, I hardly consider it "strict"...the fact that I'm trying to apply ANY definition, appears to be what's concerning you. Tea doesn't enter into it...get back to me when there's such abuse to the traditional means of tea preparation that people who enjoy it are forced to start calling it something else to specifically refer to the traditional manner of preparation, then we can talk about tea. But, needless to say, if I requested tea, I wouldn't abide receiving lemonade.

If you admit there are variations then what have you been arguing about? You only need to scroll up to see that the Old-Fashioned Cock-tail is not clear cut.

The tea analogy was brought in because from a historical standpoint it's rarely made the way it once was, but I bet you have no qualms naming modern variants by the same Old-Fashioned name?

To bring lemonade into it is just daft.

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I think the crux of the issue comes down to this:

...still technically an Old-Fashioned (because that is just a term to describe a Cock-tail)....

Correct me if I'm wrong, Adam, but I get the impression that you feel that "Cock-tail" and "Old-Fashioned" are coextensive terms, while others feel that Old-Fashioned is a proper subset of Cock-Tails.

As far as Cherry Heering being brought into the discussion, I think this whole conversation got started back here, when I asked whether a drink consisting of 2 oz. rye, 1 oz. Cherry Liqueur, 1/4 oz. amaro Meletti and a dash of orange bitters really belonged in the "Old Fashioned" thread. I maintain that it doesn't, strictly speaking, but an ounce of cherry liqueur is a far cry from a dash of curacao.

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Yikes indeed. back and forth, back and forth. I think the problem here is that there are two ways of looking at drink families in play here, the historical and the mixological. While these tend to overlap quite a bit, the alignment is never perfect, leading to off-kilter debates like this one.

Historically, there's the cocktail/cock-tail. This evolved over time, roughly thus:

...

Then:

ca. 1870: + option of adding vermouth

...

As for the mixological Old-Fashioned:

The original cocktail can also be defined as a composition of spirits, sweetener, bittering agent, diluent (that, as Wikipedia informs me, is the correct word for 'diluting agent') and optional citrus oil float.

...

If I had more time I would have made this much more concise. I probably could have just said "we're arguing at cross purposes" and left it at that.

Thanks. I think the historical perspective is important, particularly when discussing a drink who's very name implies history. Language is dynamic and I don't have any problem that, but a drink named "Old Fashioned" should evoke an earlier time - historically accurate or mere mythology. So the question is not whether a particular definition is correct but whether it is useful. And I think in this case, an overly-expansive definition is more confusing than helpful. So in my mind, any spirit (American whiskey if something else isn't specified), sugar or simple syrup, bitters. If you want to go wild and add a bit of orange, go ahead. Evocative.

Pretty much anything else is not true to style, but if you want, go for it. I'm not sure calling it an Old Fashioned would be clear to anyone else, though, and there are probably names that are as good or better. Of course if you are from Wisconsin, you have your own noble tradition.

... and "improved" old fashioned is an oxymoron to me.

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With food, a chef can reference something else -- sometimes vaguely -- and everyone appreciates the creativity (and sometimes humor). Why not with cocktails?

Could Old Fashioned mean:

  • a historic drink from various specific dates
  • a historic category of drink, with historic variations
  • a modern drink with specific modern ingredients
  • a modern drink with with regional variations
  • a modern category of drink, freely improvised

In our lifetimes, probably most Old Fashioned's are made or garnished with fruit -- orange and cherry and maybe lemon. Maybe soda water, too. Since this is the world we live in, is this not an Old Fashioned, or at least a Modern Old Fashioned (a true oxymoron -- a meaningful contradiction).

Re my drink being unwelcome in this thread: I didn't say that it was an Old Fashioned, but that I was playing with the idea. Substituting liqueurs for fruit+sugar+water+bitters is an interesting twist. As is using Mexican spirits.

BTW the Finger Lakes liqueur is quite unlike Cherry Heering.

Now has anyone made any interesting Old Fashioned's lately? I have this new bottle of Ransom Old Tom that seems begging for it. Although I might omit the sugar. :raz:

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Correct me if I'm wrong, Adam, but I get the impression that you feel that "Cock-tail" and "Old-Fashioned" are coextensive terms, while others feel that Old-Fashioned is a proper subset of Cock-Tails.

To clarify, the Old-Fashioned is a term for the Old-Fashioned Cock-tail of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. There is no strict definition and no singular recipe as it's a drinks family that was initially consumed with a specific purpose.

Whilst I agree that the term was first penned in response to the abundance of new styles of Cock-tail that bartenders were making I really don't think that the inclusion of a dash of Curacao in the drink was one that the revolt was built around. The historical and mixological aspect backs that up in my opinion.

If some on here qualify the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned as a true Old-Fashioned Cock-tail but see an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail with a dash or two of Curacao as something that doesn't belong in that family then there is some warped logic going on...

Anyway, going back to recipes and a tea Old-Fashioned, this is a great drink;

Chiapas Old Fashioned (Adam Elmegirab 2009)

50ml Calle 23 Reposado tequila

12.5ml Green tea infused sugar syrup

2 Dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion & Burdock Bitters

1 Dash Regan’s Orange Bitters #6

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass fill with cubed ice and stir for fifteen-twenty seconds. Julep strain

Glass: Rocks / Old Fashioned

Garnish: Grapefruit zest

Ice: Cubed

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To clarify, the Old-Fashioned is a term for the Old-Fashioned Cock-tail of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. There is no strict definition and no singular recipe as it's a drinks family that was initially consumed with a specific purpose.

I can't agree with this--the term "Old Fashioned" is tied to a fixed historical version of that "Cock-tail of spirit, sugar, water and bitters." In other words, it was a name given to one narrow way of interpreting that very flexible formula. Yes, after prohibition it was redefined for a new generation to allow the addition of fruit, but there were many who went around insisting that that version was no Old-Fashioned.

Arguing for a new redefinition is fine, as long as you realize that that's what you're doing. Just because a little curacao does no harm to a Whiskey Cocktail that doesn't mean you'll find people to agree that it belongs in a proper Whiskey Old-Fashioned. The historical recipes that defined the Old-Fashioned are available for inspection, and they contain no curacao (or vermouth, or whatever). I'm not saying that you can't call your version an Old-Fashioned--who am I to say? Who is anyone to say? Just that you're going to have a hard time getting anyone else to call it that.

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Arguing for a new redefinition is fine, as long as you realize that that's what you're doing. Just because a little curacao does no harm to a Whiskey Cocktail that doesn't mean you'll find people to agree that it belongs in a proper Whiskey Old-Fashioned.

Far more reasonably stated than I ever could... While I would continue to disagree with any attempts to redefine this cocktail, this is what I've been trying to say all along.

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Here's the basic problem. We lost the use of the word "cocktail" to describe something simple with spirits, sweetener, bittering agent and diluent. That word now means anything in a cocktail glass, or even any mixed drink with spirits. Hence Adam's understandable frustration. But I don't think the solution is to wrench open the term "Old-Fashioned" to cover creative variations on the original cocktail. Maybe something with "fancy" or "improved" or "evolved" would be better. 'Cause otherwise when I order an Old-Fashioned, I'm gonna get something with stuff in it, and we're gonna have beef.

Edited due to superfluity of "d"s.


Edited by Splificator (log)

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Well said. When I jump off my accelerator and pull in to the doggery for some liquid refreshment -- never minding that I have to shoulder aside a boodle of the codfish aristocracy just to get a tot of the heavy wet and maybe have a gander at the Cat-heads -- if some self-proclaimed Philadelphia lawyer puts his new fangling into my Old-Fashioned glass of old orchard, I'll wake snakes and dispense with bunches of fives. 'Course I do come out of a fisticuffs at the little end of the horn most tiomes. The point being that a fella doesn't want to be honey-fuggled by some high-falutin saucebox at the bucket shop, he just wants to get a brick in his hat with a proper Old-Fashioned.

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Okay. Historically, it's the title Jerry Thomas (or whoever updated his book) appended in 1876 to the evolved version of the cocktail, with the sweetening split between sugar and liqueur and the bittering split between bitters and a dash or two of absinthe. As far as I can tell, it was a nonce term, used only to distinguish between the cocktail as it was being made in 1876 and the earlier versions (plain and "fancy") carried over from the earlier, 1862 edition of the book. In other words, if you were to stride into the Hoffman House bar one fine day in 1876 and command an "Improved Gin Cocktail," they would have had no idea what you were talking about.

Mixologically, as you know well, the term has today come to mean the basic cocktail, with spirit, rich simple, one or another old-timey brand of bitters, plus the addition of a splash of maraschino or curacao and a dash or two of absinthe, stirred, up with a twist.

In other words, it's another fossilized expression of the basic cocktail formula.

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Here's the basic problem. We lost the use of the word "cocktail" to describe something simple with spirits, sweetener, bittering agent and diluent. That word now means anything in a cocktail glass, or even any mixed drink with spirits.

Agreed but we can't throw stones: this is the "Spirits & Cocktails" forum not "Spirits & Mixed Drinks". But really, do we need the old category, given bartenders' capacity to blur lines? Sooner or later someone will throw in a splash of digestif, or amaro, or Dubonnet, or vermouth.

But we need Old Fashioned cocktails (or at least, right now, I do).

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But we need Old Fashioned cocktails (or at least, right now, I do).

Yesterday, today and always.

And I agree with your basic point--to try to reverse language change is a mug's game. But I don't think the solution is to simply declare that anything vaguely resembling an old-style Cocktail is now an "Old-Fashioned," if only because there's a still a plethora of vision-deprived, blinkered literalists out there who will say "you call that an Old-Fashioned?" (I know 'cause I'm one of them.)

Solution? Dunno. Wait.

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Now here's an Old Fashioned (or not) for the strong-of-will:

Fernet Old Fashioned

2oz Fernet Branca

1/2oz simple syrup

1 dash either Angostura orange or Fee’s whiskey barrel-aged bitters

orange peel, for garnish

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Release those orange oils, squire. Alternately, you could build over ice and stir.

Rick from Kaiser Penguin

http://www.kaiserpenguin.com/fernet-old-fashioned/

I'm curious to try it, although I'll have one eyebrow raised while making it.

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Arguing for a new redefinition is fine, as long as you realize that that's what you're doing. Just because a little curacao does no harm to a Whiskey Cocktail that doesn't mean you'll find people to agree that it belongs in a proper Whiskey Old-Fashioned. The historical recipes that defined the Old-Fashioned are available for inspection, and they contain no curacao (or vermouth, or whatever). I'm not saying that you can't call your version an Old-Fashioned--who am I to say? Who is anyone to say? Just that you're going to have a hard time getting anyone else to call it that.

I'm not arguing for a redefinition, instead looking at it from a modern (bartender and consumer) standpoint taking into account the historical and mixological aspects of the drink. Personally speaking I don't like the separation of the terms Old-Fashioned and Cock-tail and think they should be used together because, well for me, they are one and the same.

I'm also of the opinion that (nowadays) an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail is anything that's built around the definition of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. Most bars nowadays have their own Old-Fashioned variants that stay true to the drink from both a historical and mixological standing. From what I've seen none are proclaiming their twists to be THE Old-Fashioned Cock-tail, merely offering up a modern take on a classic drink (see my Chiapas Old Fashioned or Phil Ward's Oaxacan Old Fashioned as examples).

These drinks, having taken the name of the classic Old-Fashioned Cock-tail, are not doing any damage or disservice to the original, if anything it's a wink, nod and doff of the cap to that family. For those aforementioned drinks to qualify then adding a dash or two of Curacao is also acceptable for me. If you'd rather not have the Curacao, that's fine.

Should someone wish to have a historically accurate Old-Fashioned Cock-tail then that's what they ask for, citing your weapon of choice as the base spirit. But has that ever changed? Has there ever been a drinks family with only one recipe? What is a Julep? Or a Collins? Or a Sour? Or a Fix? Or in this case, an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail?

And let's not get onto the subject of this 1798 reference to Cock-tail, which was supposedly a drink containing gin and ginger syrup... ;)

And I agree with your basic point--to try to reverse language change is a mug's game. But I don't think the solution is to simply declare that anything vaguely resembling an old-style Cocktail is now an "Old-Fashioned,"

As you mentioned earlier the loss of the term and family of drinks that we know as the Cock-tail is what's blurred the lines here but I've no real problem with that as languages change and words take on new meanings. What I don't get is those who staunchly defend the Old-Fashioned and the use of that term have no qualms about using the word Cock-tail when it comes to all mixed drinks? To me that is illogical.


Edited by evo-lution (log)

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what we have going on here the dictatorship of language. but why?

evolution is trying to sell some drinks (exploitation of some sort) and express himself artistically (awesome)

splificator is trying to sell some books (which requires some power maintenance) and protect us from a return to the seven or eight decades of bad drinks. (awesome)

the way i see it, evolution is trying to create symbolic tension by the use of a hyphenated name (tension is often awesome). the hyphen takes a recipe that is supposed to be dynamic (made to a imbibers specs) and creates a static poetic rendering of it. static drinks are important because you cannot have a conversation with everyone these days, especially when they don't speak the same dialect. the rendering relies on the strength of the original which is important to uphold, even if that is curmudgeonly.

hyphenated names have some how gone out of favor, but they can do some really cool things. a drink like the oaxacan-old fashioned explores the culinary literacy rate. it challenges you to say the name, be familiar with the references, and understand their really clever creative linkage. the name that it ties itself into even gives you a clue as to its gustatory structure (an old fashioned will not be high acid). the tie in only works if its clearly defined (that doesn't mean a narrow definition).

i get so mad when bartenders ask questions like what base spirit (aroma) before they ask what structure (high acid or not). the Jeet Kun Do of making drinks is gustation before olfaction, but the spirits industry tries to drill into everyones' head brand first. gustatory structure clues like hyphenated names should never be scoffed at.

the hyphenated rendering can also subversively expand harmony. if some curmudgeonly person orders a "chiapas-old fashioned" because he is more or less forced or tricked into it and the person enjoys it (exacerbated by positive symbolic value picked up from the room's ambiance), there life will be better off.

we need to create and protect a clear understanding of our past so that we will have useful symbols to express ourselves with and expand harmony.


Edited by bostonapothecary (log)

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Great post. Another problem for me is if I had come on here and said;

I've created this new drink, try it out and let me know what you think

Chiapas Tipple(Adam Elmegirab 2009)

50ml Calle 23 Reposado tequila

12.5ml Green tea infused sugar syrup

2 Dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Dandelion & Burdock Bitters

1 Dash Regan’s Orange Bitters #6

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass fill with cubed ice and stir for fifteen-twenty seconds. Julep strain

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: Grapefruit zest

Ice: Cubed

...someone would respond and say, "Sounds good but it's fundamentally a Tequila Old-Fashioned. Maybe call it a Chiapas Old-Fashioned."

1232550426_worf-face-palm.gif

i get so mad when bartenders ask questions like what base spirit (aroma) before they ask what structure (high acid or not). the Jeet Kun Do of making drinks is gustation before olfaction, but the spirits industry tries to drill into everyones' head brand first. gustatory structure clues like hyphenated names should never be scoffed at.

This is a very interesting point and something I agree with but I think that the majority of bartenders ask about the base spirit first to have a better grasp of the guest they're dealing with.

From there you'd then proceed to build a drink that is perfectly suited to their palate and is appropriate for that moment in time (aperitif, digestif, first drink of the evening, and so on).


Edited by evo-lution (log)

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Just to clarify a few things:

Phil Ward's drink is called the "Oaxaca Old Fashioned" (not Oaxacan).

I also don't think it's quite right to suggest that it breaks the paradigm of spirit, bitters and sugar, garnished and served on the rocks. Yes, there is tequila and mezcal, but these are both spirits. The prefix "Oaxaca" where one might normally find "Whiskey" or "Brandy" simply specifies that the spirit is a blend of tequila and mezcal (and, I suppose, further to specify the kind of sweetener and bitters used). This, overall, seems very much more in the spirit of the Old Fashioned than something containing significant amounts of, say, St-Germaine, Canton or some other liqueur.

These conversations inevitably evolve into one of those "what is art?" dialogues, with some people holding to a view that says things can be defined and words and terms have meanings, and other pointing out that meanings languages and definitions can change over time. Personally, I am happy to find myself very much in the former camp. Otherwise, in my opinion, we find ourselves at a point where "Old Fashioned" signifies nothing more than a non-citrus drink served on the rocks -- which, of course, is there the "anything is art" side of the argument inevitably leads. There is plenty of wiggle room on each side of the question, but I have found the boundary line to be a pretty hard one. Interesting conversations and debates can be had among people residing on the same side of the question, but I have not found it ultimately resolvable or useful when the parties are on opposite sides of this fundamental question.

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