But I started seeing Old Fashioned showing up on cocktail menus at the craft cocktails bars I frequented. Why shouldn't the Old Fashioned get the same sort of fresh fruit and good juice treatment that my other drinks have been getting?
I will not attempt to outline the history of the Old Fashioned (thought by some to be the "original" cocktail), instead I will point you to Robert Hess's excellent history of the Old Fashioned. Old Fashioneds are traditionally made with bourbon or blended whiskey (though some call for rye), and some are topped off with club soda (although Mr. Hess disagrees, as do I). Recently, Imbibe Magazine had a Brandy Old Fashioned featured in a column (apparently it's Michigan's unofficial state cocktail).
Since citrus is a key component of the drink, I thought we would take advantage of the great fruit we've got available right now. For a our first go-round, I pulled out a blood orange and sliced it up to ready it for muddling. We also tried out tangerines and kumquats.
The greater challenge was the traditional cherry garnish. I won't allow those day-glo "cherry" abominations (Did you know they come in blue now? Egads!) into my drink. I had two jars of preserved cherries at hand however, so I pulled out one jar to give them a try. I opened my jar of Toschi Cherries of Vignola and popped one in my mouth to do a quick taste test. I spit it out almost the second it hit my tongue. These cherries are preserved in [totally crappy] alcohol. There was no cherry flavor, just an incredible sensation of alcoholic heat. Bleah. The second jar was sour cherries in syrup. We rinsed off the syrup and after a [very cautious] taste, I was happy: nice and sweet, with a lovely fresh tartness.
So these are the variations we tried, fortunately, there were all delicious (isn't research fun?):
- Rye, blood orange, cherry, sugar cube, Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
- Bourbon, tangerine, cherry, simple syrup, Angostura bitters
- Brandy, kumquats, cherry, simple syrup (this one needed more a little syrup), Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
Muddle together in the bottom of a rocks glass - be gentle, you aren't making a citrus puree, just bruise the fruit well to release the aromatic oils from the peel:
- A sugar cube, soaked with several dashes of bitters and a splash of water or a teaspoon of simple syrup with several dashes of bitters
- A slice of orange or tangerine or several kumquats
- One or two fresh or preserved cherries
Add fresh ice to rocks glass, pour chilled spirit over. Stir gently, to blend in the fruit flavors. Garnish, if desired, with additional citrus and cherries.