The Old Fashioned
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m a big fan of whisky – bourbon in particular. And in my mind, there’s no better bourbon cocktail than the Old Fashioned. Truly a classic (dating back to Harry Johnson’s recipes in 1888), and beautiful in its simplicity, the Old Fashioned adds some complexity with the inclusion of a small amount of sugar and bitters along with a twist of lemon and orange, but it still allows the unique flavor of whichever bourbon you’re using to shine through. As a result, I enjoy test driving new bourbons using this cocktail (after sampling them neat, of course!)
The recipe couldn’t be simpler. Here’s what you’re going to need:
1-2 sugar cubes (consider 2 if you’re using the small grocery store brand; only one if it’s a larger raw sugar cube)
A few dashes of Angostura bitters
Lemon and Orange peels for garnish
In the bottom of your Old Fashioned glass (a sturdy-bottomed rocks glass works well), place your sugar cubes and add a few dashes of Angostura bitters (generally 2-3 shakes is good, but you can experiment to taste; basically you’re just looking to soak the sugar cubes). Using a muddler, crush the sugar cubes and mix the sugar and bitters well until you have a syrupy liquid in the bottom of your glass.
Add 2oz of bourbon and several ice cues, and using your bar spoon, stir well. You want to stir this for a particularly good amount of time (generally at least a minute or so; some will argue for even longer), both to chill the cocktail, and also to dissolve the sugar/bitters syrup. Twist a peel of lemon and a peel of orange over the surface and around the rim of your glass, and drop them in to the cocktail. And voila – you’ve got an Old Fashioned.
Generally speaking, I don’t think this cocktail needs much in the way of embellishment. There is, however, one exception, and one I would only make for Jim Meehan and Don Lee of PDT. The Benton’s Old Fashioned at PDT takes the Old Fashioned to the next heavenly level, which can only be achieved through the addition of bacon. Yes, bacon. The folks at PDT infuse bourbon with a smoky bacon, separate out the fat, substitute high-grade maple syrup for the sugar, and deliver a supremely excellent cocktail. They were kind enough to share their recipe, by way of New York Magazine (including a video of Don preparing the cocktail).