This is a slight departure from my normal work, but I’ve got a cold and was craving something less potent and more sweet and fruity than a martini.
Enter the Old Fashioned cocktail.
Apparently emerging in the early 1800s (it might even have evolved towards the late 1700s), this drink is a lot older than a Martini.
It also has a reputation for being a bit of a “fog-cutter” – that is, the sort of drink you choose when you’ve got a hangover, something sweet to try and ease the pain and help you get back on your feet again. The Breakfast Martini can serve a similar purpose.
Such hangover tactics are completely contrary to modern medical advice, but by Jove, if people have been swearing by the technique for over 200 years then who am I to argue?
Recipes for an Old Fashioned today can involve ingredients such as soda water, maraschino cherries and slices of orange but I wanted to create something much more intense, and err… old fashioned.
I like to taste alcohol when I drink alcohol, you see.
I first drank an Old Fashioned in the office after a long, intense day. I think we were in the midst of monitoring the onset of the Arab Spring, a time when Middle Eastern governments tended to collapse on a Friday, leaving us working late into the evening while the rest of London descended unto the pub.
I was told the cocktail was making a comeback because of its portrayal in the US series ‘Mad Men’. My industry might not have encouraged the same sort of working hours drinking habits of Don Draper but booze was a fairly vital commodity once we had finished our work at the end of the day.
Given the supply of various ingredients we routinely kept in our drawers our office was the perfect place for our first tipple. A quick mix and we could relax, chat about work and enjoy a short period of shared workplace quietude before we too joined the masses in the pubs.
The recipe we used in the office involved honey, but my recipe uses demarara sugar.
You will need:
- Bourbon or Rye
- Sugar (brown if possible)
- Bitters (I used Angosturra)
- An orange (just for the peel)
- Two glasses (one for prep, one for serving)
- Ice (I used spherical ice – as it melts slowly and looks good in the right glass)
- A teaspoon
- A little bit of water
- Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to the prep glass.
- Add 2 teaspoons of water.
- Stir well to dissolve (this can take a minute or two).
- If you mix these quite often you might want to make yourself some sugar syrup in advance which means you don’t need to go about dissolving sugar each time you pour a deink.
- Add 250ml water to a kettle and bring to the boil.
- Let it cool slightly then add it to a pouring bowl with 300g Demerara sugar.
- Stir until it dissolves, allow to cool, then pour into a bottle or other container to store until needed.
- Back to the mixing: add 2-3 dashes of bitters to the dissolved sugar (or equivalent of syrup) and stir.
- Add 60ml bourbon or rye and stir a bit more.
- Peel a strip of orange rind.
- Twist it over the serving glass to spray in the natural oil. Squeeze it, crush it slightly and rub it all round the inside of the glass to transfer as much of the oil as possible, then discard the piece (I actually just ate it outright, mainly for the vitamin C).
- Peel a second strip of orange rind, twist it over the glass to release a bit more oil but try not to damage it.
- Trim the strip of peel and put aside.
- Add the ice to the serving glass.
- Pour over the mixture from the other glass and swirl it around.
- If you like bitters you can add in another dash now and watch it permeate through the drink.
- Use the trimmed orange peel to stir, then drop it into the drink as well.
- Serve in a nice setting with good company.
I picked the garden with the whippet puppies but indoor settings are more common; somewhere with dim lighting, leather furniture and perhaps some cigars would definitely work.
Because of its sweetness I don’t think this drink goes especially well with nibbles.
It could, however, be served both before or after a meal.
Indeed the drink’s versatility means that it could be served at a variety of times in a range of environments and settings.
Here, for example, is a perfect setting: a bar cabaret performance by the talented Cat Loud and Finn Anderson.
It also works well during more intense and strategic pursuits.