I’m Listening To: Witchcraft by Frank Sinatra (1957)
“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…
3oz/90ml good quality Bourbon or Rye whisky
3 demerara sugar cubes
Aromatic bitters (Angostura, Jerry Thomas, or Jack Rudy’s are particularly recommended)
Ice (good quality cubes)
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.
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.
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.
4) Add ice to your shaker to the level of the whisky, and stir for a further thirty seconds.
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!