Revisiting The Old-Fashioned with Tatoosh Bourbon
During the stormy days at the start of the week, we had our eyes and buds set on the Old-Fashioned, a classic cocktail tradition that’s typically made with bourbon. On the hunt for Tatoosh, we combed a few joints to see exactly how some of the city’s top tenders fashion this particular cocktail that was first coined in 1895 by George J. Kappeler in his publication, Modern American Drinks. According to Gary Regan, in The Joy of Mixology, Kappeler “made the drink by dissolving a lump of sugar with a little water, then adding two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, lemon peel, and a jigger of whiskey.” And though Regan’s book also quotes Albert Stevens Crockett, who wrote in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1935) that the Old-Fashioned “was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in Lousiville,” there have since been so many adaptations of the Old-Fashioned that one’s interpretation is simply a matter of preference.
At wd~50, we met up with Jaffrul behind the bar, who’s been tending thirsts there for six or seven years. With Tatoosh Bourbon well positioned behind the counter, he noted how well it’s enjoyed in a Manhattan by many. To our request for his version of the Old-Fashioned, he said, “I [re]designed the Old-Fashioned, an old cocktail, looking for balance.” Using Tatoosh bourbon (2 oz.), or rye, he adds 1/4 oz of simple syrup, a few drops of water, 2 dashes of orange bitters and 2 dashes of Angostura bitters. He then gives it “a very slow stir to break down the flavors of the orange, the bitters and sugar.” Adding ice and peels of orange rind to the glass, he strained the cocktail and voila! An Old-Fashioned in an elegant vessel that was certainly worthy of pairing from the kitchen. “It possessed an enticing nose of orange, clove and caramel, while on the palate it packed a wallop of richness and spice,” said Scott Rosenbaum, our Spirits Strategist.
Jeila, at The Fat Radish said, “I always do two orange rinds and muddle with three dashes of Angostura bitters.” Working the oils from the rinds with a twist of her wrist, she then added 1 sugar cube (or 1/4oz.) and two ounces of Tatoosh whiskey. Avoiding the fruit of the orange itself, Jeila said, “I always do the rind. The fruit itself gets too pulpy [so that] you can’t even taste the whiskey.”
“The Old-Fashioned can be a controversial drink on more than one front,” wrote Regan, adding, “…the thing that really raises the hackles of many cocktailians is the question of fruit.”
Taking this thought one step further, David A. Embury of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, wrote, “You will frequently find Old-Fashioneds served with lemon, orange, cherry, and pineapple…My own opinion is that fruit flavors and liquors blend exquisitely and that, for a mid-afternoon or an evening drink, an Old-Fashioned is greatly approved in its over-all appeal by the judicious addition of a few fruits. Fruits, however, properly belong at the end of a dinner rather than at the beginning. Accordingly, when serving Old-Fashionds as an apéritif, I recommend using only the lemon peel with no fruit at all or, at the most, a cherry or a slice of orange.”
Before straining the cocktail into the glass, Jeila rubbed the rim with orange rind and poured over ice before adding a rind and cherry garnish. As I brought the glass to my lips, soft aromas of orange rind rose to greet me. Serving as a subtle introduction, the aromas continued to intensify as the glass neared, complimenting the palate notes of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon that are central to Tatoosh. Luckily we only had time for one, as the Old-Fashioned went down so smoothly, so deliciously, it would have been easy to keep on.