Ahh… this one’s one of my top 5 favorite drinks. Unfortunately, it’s also one of my top 5 least favorite drinks to actually prepare (when I’m busy). If it’s relatively slow, I’m more than happy to churn them out. The Old Fashioned is yet another drink that is misunderstood by the better part of bartenders I’ve encountered, as well as consumers. The main problem is that most folks have not been taught how to order or make them properly.
Like when ordering just about any other mixed drink, start with the liquor you’d like. For example: “Bartender, I’d like a Bookers Old Fashioned, please.” Well said, succinct, and polite – perfection from a customer. Now, as a bartender, when someone orders an old fashioned in this way “Old Fashioned please,” your first reaction must be to ask him/her “Sure, which liquor?” If this results in confusion, follow with “Would you like Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, Irish, Rum, etc.?” Try to upsell. I assure you, you don’t really want an Old Fashioned made with well Scotch.
Next, the glass. An Old Fashioned is named as such partly because it goes in an Old Fashioned glass. For you uninitiated, that means a Rocks glass (see picture at right). This is typically a 4 – 6oz glass. It does not go in a Highball, Martini, Flute, or Snifter or any other glass – period.
So, here’s the the prep and what’s most important about this drink. This is where I’ve seen most bartenders become extremely lazy or ignorant.
You must grab a bar knife, head over to your cutting board (you do have a cutting board at your bar right?) and carefully remove the rind and pith from a slice of orange, lime and lemon. Try to keep the lemon seeds out. Remove the stem from a cherry. Add all the “cleaned” fruit to the rocks glass. Add 2 or 3 good dashes of your favorite bitters, a half-teaspoon of sugar and muddle very well. Personally, since my bar has them, I may often throw in a grape and blueberry for good measure, but you don’t have to. The whole concoction is meant to be edible, thus the rind and stem removal.
Once muddled, head back to your drink-prep-area. Fill with ice and pour in a shot of the requested liquor. Shake well, pour back into the rocks glass, add a sip-straw (you do know every drink with ice gets a straw right?) and serve with a bevnap. It should look something like the pic above. Yum!!!
If your idea of an Old Fashioned is some oddly put together fruit from your condiment tray with some bitter-ass rind intact; if you’ve simply added ice and haven’t bothered to ask which whiskey (typical) or other booze is desired; if you’ve left it unshaken, don’t bother selling it. It’s an insult to your patrons.
There are throwback bars popping up left and right that insist on making an Old Fashioned in the “classic” way. What that typically means, is a dollop of Simple Syrup, a muddle lemon or orange twist and booze. I’m sorry – but this is a big let-down, original recipe or not. Try my Old Fashioned side-by-side and you’ll see what I mean.
I recently went to Sunday brunch with some fellow service industry associates and a couple of really good bartender friends. As is natural to do amongst such company, we spent much of our time critiquing the food, drinks, service, and atmosphere. I made the terrible mistake of ordering a Bookers Old Fashioned from this particular, well known, speakeasy looking spot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was anticipating something mouth-wateringly delicious involving intricate preparation.
What I received, was a shot of Bourbon in a 7 or 8 ounce, wide-bottomed Rocks glass. It was poured over an admittedly pretty, single and ginourmous block of ice (which slows dilution), along with a lemon twist garnish that the bartender evidently, didn’t even bother to “twist,” releasing the lemon oil. I will never go back to that place. I’m tempted to name it, but it’s my deep seeded desire to NOT turn this blog into a review forum nor bash industry folks. Suffice it to say, this establishment is named for it’s namesake booze – I’ll leave it at that.