Quick Sips: Old Fashioned

How about a nice change of pace?

This weekend I was fortunate enough to have a few dear friends in from Albuquerque, along with some Denver transplants and a few new friends as well.  My wonderful wife, Emily, made my birthday weekend a priority and took the time to plan out everyone coming into town to hang out and watch baseball and play video games in the middle of a brewing extravaganza.  Essentially, I had a free pass to be an eight-year-old for a weekend again, only this time with beer.

What I’m saying is you don’t have to change who you are when you get married, and your spouse shouldn’t marry you to change you.  You can be mature and you can still play Super Mario World for a few hours to celebrate entering your late twenties.  Your tastes may mature as you grow up, and maybe you’ll make sourdough waffles instead of throwing a few Eggos in the toaster.  However, you’re also someone who wants the best of everything, so you’ll also throw home-made ice cream on top of those sourdough waffles and live like a kid again.

That’s called a teaser, and it means you’ll never buy an ice cream sandwich again.  More to come on that front.

Just a bit of rye to make the sugar go down.  Is that a thing?

Just a bit of whiskey to make the sugar go down. Is that a thing?

As far as drinks go, you’ll want to keep it classy.  I know Keystone Light comes in the cheapest thirty packs you can imagine, and you can get a handle of Fireball Whisky for like fifteen bucks at the corner store.  Those days are behind you because those days should have never been in front of you.  If you want cheap beer, drink some PBR because people in flannel shirts drink it, and people in flannel shirts are trustworthy.

The point is, life is too short to drink crappy booze, and while I normally prefer beer, having a solid cocktail is a great way to keep your loved ones happy.  We are going to start with whiskey tonight and maybe go with a few other odds and ends in later blogs.  I love whiskey and I love drinking it straight, but I think making a solid cocktail that accentuates different aspects of the liquors involved can be a solid way to start an evening.

I am a bourbon man myself.  Woodford Reserve has been my go-to bourbon for a long while for sipping, but Bulleit makes a pretty solid and inexpensive bourbon.  I enjoy peaty Highland Scotches, as they have a somewhat sulfery accentuation that is similar to the bite of a good bourbon, and while I like the sweetness of whiskeys I like a good bite and burn to balance it out.  However, for today we are going to start with a bit of rye whiskey, but in order to do that, allow me to explain a few differences among the amber-colored libations.

First, whisky versus whiskey, the simplest variance.  If it has an “e,” it is distilled and produced in the United States, and if it’s missing the “e,” it is made out of the country.  All Scotches are therefore of the whisky variety, as they are from Scotland.  A single malt whiskey is mashed from one strain of malt, which is then fermented to produce something similar to beer, and then the alcohol is distilled from that mixture and aged in oak barrels.  Beyond that, it gets complicated.

Just ignore how fantastic my manicure is and pick up some Wild Turkey.  Just kidding.  My lovely wife Emily, everyone.

Just ignore how fantastic my manicure is and pick up some Wild Turkey. Just kidding. My lovely wife Emily, everyone.

Any time a bourbon or whiskey or whisky is called “straight,” as in a “Straight Kentucky Bourbon,” that means it has been aged in oak barrels that haven’t housed any other alcohol.  These virgin oak barrels then age the clear alcohol that’s been distilled from the malt mash, and the barrels add flavor and color to the whiskey.  You can also age whiskey in a wine cask or a cask that previously held a different type of whiskey, but those new varieties can no longer be called “straight.”

You can add different things to the mash besides malted grain, and the grains and additives are the different things that contain starches which are then converted to sugars that are then converted into alcohol.  Once more than 51% of your grain is corn instead of malt, your whiskey is now a bourbon.  Once more than 51% of your grain is made from rye instead of malted barley, it’s a rye whiskey.  And now you can thrill your friends with your whisky/ey knowledge, or be mocked relentlessly for your antisocial researching behaviors.

An old fashioned Old Fashioned.  Don't be fooled by the simplicity.  It's simply awesome.

An old fashioned Old Fashioned. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity. It’s simply awesome.

Let’s get to the drinks.  If you’re making old fashioneds, you are completely open to criticism from the get go.  People are vehemently opinionated on their old fashioneds because they accentuate the whiskey you use so well!  Then you get into what’s called a new old fashioned, which I honestly prefer but I have to laugh at the name.  The whiskey shines through the other ingredients, and then there’s the methodology behind it all.  I suggest you pick up a few bottles of moderately okay bottles of rye, bourbon, and whiskey and figure out what you like.  Twenty five bucks should get you a perfectly sippable bottle of any liquor, and it will definitely give you a chance to discover what you like. I usually use bourbon for an old fashioned, but rye has a similar burn and they both have their merits.

A traditional old fashioned:

1 Sugar cube
2 Dashes of bitters
1 Jigger of Whiskey/Bourbon/Rye
1 Lemon Twist

First you take your sugar cube and place it in the bottom of a rocks glad and throw a few dashes of bitters on top.  You can also use a teaspoon of sugar, and all you have to do is “muddle” which is a fancy bar term for “mash” your sugar and bitters together.  Typically, I just use the back of a big spoon and mash the heck out of the sugar and bitters until it turns into a paste.  then, you top it of with a “jigger” or “a shot” or “one and a half ounces” of liquor.  Then, you add a “lemon twist” or “a shaving of lemon peel” over the top of the mixture and throw a cube of ice.  Bam, you are good to go.

As you can see by the quotes, the recipe for an old fashioned is pretty old fashioned, so let’s take a step back.  All you need to do is mix your sugar and bitters together, top it off with whiskey, then peel off a bit of lemon peel with a vegetable peeler.  Just avoid the white pith of the lemon rind and you’ll get some awesome lemon oils in your drink.  My dad used to tell me that the best bartenders could take a lemon peel and twist exactly one drop of oil out of it.  I think if you rub it between your fingers and mash some of the oils out, you can toss it into the glass and you get a good amount of lemon flavor.

Not enough for it? Fine, then let’s go a new direction.

A sweeter, more citrusy New Old Fashioned.

A sweeter, more citrusy New Old Fashioned.

A New Old Fashioned:

1 Slice of orange
1 Maraschino Cherry
1 sugar cube
1 Jigger of whiskey
2 Dashes of bitters

First, grab your orange slice, throw the sugar on top and the cherry, and mash it all together.  Top it off with the whiskey, add a few dashes of bitters and an ice cube.  Once more, bam, you are good to go.  Get your drink on, people.


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