Ahh the Old Fashioned. That most simple of cocktails.
Bourbon, ice, bitters, and just a little bit of sweetness. For some, it’s the easiest introduction to whiskey, just a little dilution and a little sugar to soften the the edges and introduce a new palate to the world of Bourbon. For others, like me, it’s a reminder why sometimes simple ingredients can produce delicious results.
Last week was Old Fashioned Week – where bars across the country celebrated with events, and here in Manchester we had Wild Turkey on hand with their own masterclass at Whiskey Jar.
I am, I must admit, no stranger to Wild Turkey Bourbon. In 2015 I had the pleasure of talking to Eddie Russell, whose soft southern accent set my knees to jelly (seriously, I could have listened to him read a mailing list).
This reintroduction was strictly cocktail themed with the delicious bitter chocolate notes that accompany a Wild Turkey Old Fashioned.
As well as our well tended drinks at the bar, we were in for a little treat, downstairs in The Still, we were greeted by our own little kits, glasses and plenty of bourbon. So far, so good.
The Old Fashioned has it’s roots in 19th century America, where it wasn’t merely made with bourbon, and wasn’t the simplistic drink we know of today. In fact some recipes hint at triple sec or liqueurs being used in its creation, and a variety of spirits too.
Even now, you can make an old fashioned from whatever spirit takes your fancy, but it is believed that the first use of the term ‘Old Fashioned’ for a Bourbon whiskey cocktail was at a gentlemen’s club in Louisville, founded in 1881 and created by a bartender at that club in honour of a prominent bourbon distiller, who then aided it’s popularity by introducing it to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
Fast forward to now, and it’s still an incredibly popular drink. Short, rich and boozy, it’s the perfect nightcap – and we were here to learn how to make them at home.
Everything was provided for us, so in we dove. In truth, you don’t need to go in a particular order to assemble the ingredients. So, first up, a little sugar syrup. We might all be used to hearing that sugar should be used and not syrup – but in truth, sugar dissolves very slowly and can often leave grains at the bottom of the glass. Syrup ensures consistency, and is a darn sight faster.
Next, Angostura Bitters – Angostura Bitters were as most herbal spirits were, created as a medicine. What they do in this drink is balance out the sweetness, so two good hefty dashes.
Finally, Bourbon. 50ml of Wild Turkey 101. 50ml Wild Turkey 101. 101 is aged for a minimum of 6 years, before being bottled at 101 proof (or 50.5%). Neat it’s full, sweet, with a characteristic cinnamon heat, deep toast and spice notes.
It’s a damn fine Bourbon.
To dilute, and chill, lots of ice. Now don’t fret about over-icing your drink. You’re not going to water it down too far, or ruin it, because you’re in charge. Fill that glass with ice, all the way to the top.
Done? Good. Now slide a bar spoon in all the way to the bottom and stir the ice. This will dilute the spirit, bring everything together and chill it down. After a few turns (I aim for about 15), give it a taste, top up your ice if you need it.
Stir again, and probably after the second set, you’re about there. It should still be boozy, but it’ll be softer, gentler, and infinitely sippable.
Finally, slice a little orange peel.
Twist it across the top of the glass to release the oils, and wipe the glass with it, and pop it in. The aim is not to make it taste of orange, but for you to get a hint of orange when you sip it. What it will do is emphasise those bitter chocolate notes from the cocktail.
Now sip that beauty to your heart’s content.
Now, whilst Old Fashioned Week has sadly ended, you can still enjoy one of your own at home, or pop to Whiskey Jar so one of the experts can make it for you.
An Old Fashioned is for life, not just for a week in November.