The Quick Old Fashioned Recipe

I’m Listening To: Witchcraft by Frank Sinatra (1957)

IMG_0826

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”. So said Seth Brundle in Jurassic Park. I know, I know. The Old Fashioned is a drink designed to be made slow and enjoyed even more slowly. A drink to savour, a concoction that somehow manages to both warm dark winter nights and cool blazing summer days. It’s my personal favourite cocktail for all occasions (a dry gin martini is the only one which can really compete).

But sometimes, for whatever reason I find that I want one quickly. Because, let’s be honest, it does take a while to make (I’ve personally spent upwards of twenty minutes agonising over a single drink at times. I mean, it tasted excellent, but that’s besides the point). I know it’s pretty much cocktail heresy to shake one of these things, but I just can’t help myself. Rather than considering it an insult that I can’t be bothered to make an Old Fashioned the proper, laborious way, think of it as a compliment – the drink is so damn good that I simply can’t wait around for it.

This recipe does have a few caveats – while it does taste (perhaps surprisingly) fantastic, it will never fully recreate the taste or silky feel of a stirred Old Fashioned. I recently read an article in which Adam Stemmler of the Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. argued that shaking an Old Fashioned essentially ruins the drink, making it thin and frothy (http://bit.ly/2aFXyt1). But this is a pretty good approximation of the ‘real thing’ for roughly two minutes of work – the bite of the whisky is still there, the smoothness and sweetness of the sugar, the kick of the bitters. While I would concede that this Old Fashioned does end up a little ‘thinner’ than the stirred version, it certainly doesn’t become aerated, frothy, or overly diluted if done properly. And it certainly has a depth of flavour to compete with any Old Fashioned you’d be able to make more slowly.

I may go more into the science of why this method works as well as it does at a later date, but for now I’ll just get to the magic…

IMG_0808

 

The Ingredients

3oz/90ml good quality Bourbon or Rye whisky

3 demerara sugar cubes

Aromatic bitters (Angostura, Jerry Thomas, or Jack Rudy’s are particularly recommended)

Orange peel

Ice (good quality cubes)

The Method

IMG_0813

1) Place the sugar cubes in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Cover them with three or four dashes of aromatic bitters. Muddle the cubes into a paste.

IMG_0816

2) Add your whiskey and a large, thin slice of orange peel. Don’t add any ice at this stage. Cover the shaker and shake for roughly thirty seconds (just keep count in your head, it doesn’t have to be exact). Most of the sugar should be dissolved after this stage.

IMG_0818

3) Remove the lid of the shaker, and allow the drink to settle for around a minute. This helps reduce the aeration and frothiness in the drink.

IMG_0821

4) Add ice to your shaker to the level of the whisky, and stir for a further thirty seconds.

IMG_0824

5) Strain into an old-fashioned tumbler filled with plenty more ice. Garnish with another thin slice of orange peel (expressed over the glass), and serve.

6) Be grateful that you can now enjoy an excellent Old Fashioned without having to wait for twenty minutes.

On a final note, I’m sure that I’ve read a recipe similar to this somewhere before and then tweaked it slightly – but after scouring all of my cocktail books as well as the internet, I couldn’t find any trace. If anyone knows anything about it so that I can give appropriate credit, I’d be much obliged to hear!

Advertisements
The Quick Old Fashioned Recipe

The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver

IMG_4844

I’d call Hop and Cleaver a hidden gem, but I’d be lying. I first spotted their large advertising hoarding by chance while passing St Nicholas’ Cathedral in the height of last summer, and the promise of plentiful bourbon and chicken wings seemed too good to be true. Alas, I was passing far too quickly to note down the name of this magical promised land, and I was forced to go without my chicken and whisky fix. It wasn’t until a few months later, quite by chance, that I stumbled upon it. And I was damn glad that I did.

The joint is owned by the same group who control such as RedHouse, to which Hop and Cleaver is connected via labyrinthine medieval passages and alleyways – probably the coolest trip to the bathroom you’ll find in Newcastle. As with their other properties, the bar is targeted with a particular niche in mind: in this case, a whiskey bar combined with a dash of smokehouse restaurant. In this respect, Hop and Cleaver does not disappoint. Their menu boasts an enviable 50 different varieties of American and Canadian bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, rye, and blends, and their shelves appear stacked with an even larger selection of spirits. This selection ranges from your standard, Jim Beam-level offerings (though it is notable that they do not stock any variations of Jack Daniel’s other than the upmarket Single Barrel variety, opting instead for their vastly underappreciated rivals George Dickel for their standard Tennessee fix) to several truly top-notch whiskies, including the super-premium Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye – which was recently selected by Whisky Magazine as their American Whiskey of the Year, and runs at up to 400 quid for a bottle. So, not cheap. For non-Whiskey fans, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a huge range of craft beers and ales on offer. There’s even a slick-looking side room (The Tap Room) which is available for private hire.

Top_Hop & Cleaver_MainRoom

The cocktail selection is equally impressive, seemingly running the entire gamut of classic American whiskey cocktails, with a good range of their own creations too if you fancy trying something different. I usually elect my go-to choice of the classic Old Fashioned, which (when made by capable hands such as those found at the H&C) never disappoints. Hop and Cleaver mix it with. Top marks for the bartenders too, as this is the only place where I’ve been asked how I take my Old Fashioneds (strong, but very sweet if you’re taking notes). The next stop is generally a Whiskey Sour. A minor complaint here – I’m not sure why so many bars (in Newcastle, especially) are electing to serve their Sours with crushed ice rather than cubed. The final effect is something feeling like an alcoholic lemon slushy, which ends up being nowhere near as pleasant as it sounds. I can only assume that this is related to the more modern Amaretto and Midori sours rather than the more traditional Whiskey variety (traditionally served straight up) – though I have noticed several cocktail guides advocating the crushed ice Whiskey Sour. Perhaps I should start a petition. Anyway, a final nod has to be given to their build-your-own Manhattan, which is one of the best ideas I’ve ever come across. Pick your whiskey (Jim Beam Rye, please), your garnish, your bitters etc. Genuinely brilliant. For non-whiskey lovers a selection of other drinks are available, most notably the hard-shake cocktails available in Mojito and Daiquiri varieties, amongst others.

As Hop and Cleaver puts such stock in their smokehouse offerings, it would be unfair to not briefly comment on the food in this (admittedly cocktail-based) review. I’ll admit that the bar’s sheer unabashed popularity means that I haven’t been able to sample the cuisine as often as I’d like – getting a table on the fly over the weekend, and even on some weeknights, is impossible. So book in advance! However, I can only speak incredibly highly of their offerings, with a particular shoutout to the BBQ chicken wings. I’ll often pair that with the half-roast chicken in BBQ catsup for an extravagant chicken feast. One day I’ll try that Tomahawk steak…one day.

Rating: The Sazerac Rye of whiskey bars.

Follow them on Twitter @hopandcleaver, and find them online at hopandcleaver.co.uk. Or even better, pay them a visit down on the Newcastle Quayside at 40 Sandhill. Give them a call on 0191 261 1037 to book a table for food – a must if you’re eating on a busy night, or during Restaurant Week!

The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.

JS45386476

Pleased to Meet You is one of my favourite places to head to in the middle of the day for a drink in town. It’s never that quiet (for a place at, say, 2pm on a Wednesday), but you can usually always get a good table. Excellent drinks, brilliant food, proper music, and great place to sit and contemplate the world. Of course, it’s just as excellent at night. Come for the gin, stay for the Martini Lunch (albeit two, not three), get a taxi home at 1AM. Excellent.

I’d like to think that I’m one of PTMY’s longest standing customers, having first visited a few days after they first opened. I have fond memories of that being the last time my friend and I were able to get a seat at the bat without any issues. Yes, PTMY is now perpetually rammed whatever day of the week you visit. Hopefully their new extension – comprising a fancy-looking outdoor terrace, basement colonial cocktail bar, and more – will go some way to alleviating the crush, but you can’t be too harsh on the people of Newcastle for having good taste. Because PTMY is genuinely one of the best cocktail bars in the city – brilliant décor, great staff, good drinks. The selection of gins alone is frankly ridiculous (I maintain that one day I may get through them all), but for those who aren’t such a fan of gin they offer a great selection of other drinks as well; ranging from guest ales to an enviable selection of whiskies and bourbons (any place that stocks Tin Cup is fine by me). Until recently I had a bit of a bugbear with the cocktail list, though I’m a big fan of their new Aviation-ful Spring/Summer menu. If you chaps could only find some way to include an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac on there for us whisky lovers, it may be perfect. Though I do have to give good marks for the staff, who never seem to have an issue with preparing me an Old Fashioned off the menu.

Pleased-to-Meet-you-Newcastle-feat

As mentioned it’s a perpetual haunt for me for lunch, and the food is never anything less than spectacular. Try the jumbo fish and thrice-cooked chips, which really isn’t false advertising, Seriously, it’s like they raided the set of Jaws for those things. Consistently some of the best cooked fish-and-chips in town. Their ribeye steak has also always been a perennial favourite, though there are plenty of good vegetarian options on there too. With Newcastle’s ever-popular Restaurant Week coming around again, it’s not like you even need an excuse for sampling their delicious grub.

Rating: A perfectly-stirred gin martini.

PTMY is easily one of the most popular places in town, so I doubt any of what you just read is news to you. But do them a visit in town if you haven’t already on High Bridge (NE1 1EW), or online (I hear that’s the big thing these days) at www.ptmy-newcastle.co.uk or @ptmynewcastle. They take table bookings for food during the week – give them a call on 0191 340 5137.

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.

Taking Flight – The Resurgence of the Aviation in Newcastle

TheAviationCocktailThe Aviation is one of those drinks which, a few years back, could probably pretty conclusively be described as dead. Decommissioned. Out of service. It was an elegant creation that simply didn’t sit well with a contemporary climate for mixed drinks consisting entirely of pitchers of Woo-Woo, Sea Breeze or Sex on the Beach, not least because of the relative difficulty locating one of the key ingredients (Crème de Violette), but also because of the tastes of the time. However, with the revival of the classic cocktail, I’ve noticed the Aviation migrating from menu to menu recently, seemingly turning up when I least expect it. And this is nothing but a good thing – the Aviation is an incredibly unappreciated concoction, a twist on the gin sour which tastes surprisingly like an alcoholic lemon sherbet.

Its most recent landing spot is Pleased to Meet You’s pleasantly extended cocktail menu, which offers it in its most classic no-frills format of gin, lemon, crème de violette, and maraschino. Other destinations on the Aviation’s long-haul tour of the Toon have included Livello, Tokyo, MSA, and Jalou (sadly no longer offered there, but perhaps it may make a return for the summer? Just a suggestion…). Westgate Road’s Tokyo and MSA (Music Slash Art) are also both adherents to the original century-old recipe which has, honestly, yet to be topped – and they both adhere to it very well indeed. As to the others, Livello are currently offering a pleasant twist on the original which they have christened the Aviation Mach – essentially your standard Aviation upgraded to business class via the addition of being fire-poured over fresh rosemary. Another interesting detour can be found at the newly-reopened Popolo quayside location. Their variation (christened the Aviatrix, the product of the 2011 CLASS bartender of the year Tristan Stephenson) uses egg white powder and cologne spray to add a distinctly masculine edge to the drink. In general I’m not a fan of egg white, feeling that it adds an unnecessary frothiness to already foamy drinks such as the Whiskey Sour. In this case, however, I think that it works – perhaps the drink being served without ice prevents the unwanted milkshake effect. Of these two new twists I’d have to say I preferred the rosemary twist from Livello, purely because of my own personal dislike of egg white (and I’m also quite a fan of rosemary). Needless to say, though, it’s largely a subjective choice as the cocktails served at both venues were otherwise superb. However, if in doubt, you absolutely can’t go wrong with PTMY, MSA, or Tokyo’s offering of the original. As a note, the vast majority of locations are electing to serve their Aviation’s with Bombay Sapphire or Bombay Dry gin (other than Popolo, who are opting for Hayman’s). It works perfectly serviceably with the drink, though I feel that a slightly less floral gin and one more citrus-based, such as Beefeater, may be better suited to the overall flavour of the Aviation. Just a thought.

The first place where I noticed the Aviation making its reappearance in Newcastle, however, was the perennial Alvino’s. It seemed to be a menu staple there for quite some time, until their move last summer to an entirely in-house cocktail list featuring their own creations meant that it was sadly removed. However, the incredibly knowledgeable bar staff have never had a problem serving one up for me on the occasions when I’ve ordered one there (which is actually *a lot*…because they make them really, really well). They even introduced me to the tweaked non-maraschino version known as a Blue Moon. I’ve never been a particular lover of maraschino liqueur (which is kind of odd since I’m such a fan of this drink, of which it is such a major part), and so they suggested the alternative. Which was nice.

With that, here’s my own recipe for making a proper Aviation (or Blue Moon if, like me, you’re just not that into maraschino liqueur).

Ingredients

45ml Gin (I recommend Beefeater, or a London Dry Gin with similar body)

15ml lemon juice (roughly half of one average sized lemon, squeezed)

15ml Crème de Violette (available from Fenwick Wine Store, or online from retailers such as The Whisky Exchange)

15ml maraschino liqueur (omit this to make a Blue Moon, instead using 30ml of crème de violette)

Method

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake for roughly 20 seconds, or until the shaker turns frosty. Strain straight-up into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry; or a slice of lemon peel if you’re making a Blue Moon. You can thank me later.

Taking Flight – The Resurgence of the Aviation in Newcastle