Fitzgerald: Don’t make them so sweet this time.
Dingy: You want another one? You’ve had two already, can’t you wait until we’re on the ground?
Fitzgerald: What are you talking about? All right, I’ll make the next batch. (To Benjy) You! You take the controls!
Benjy: I don’t know how to fly an airplane!
Fitzgerald: Oh, that’s nonsense, anyone can fly a plane…Now I’m going to make us an old-fashioned the old-fashioned way, the way dear old Dad used to!
Benjy: What if something happens?
Fitzgerald: What could happen to an old-fashioned?
The Holy Bee doesn’t do things by half-measures…when I write a blog entry, I usually gush 4000 words…when I fix a drink, it’s usually a double.
The perfect unwinding drink is the old-fashioned. Whether you knock one together as soon as you walk in the door after a rough day, or wait until later in the evening as dinner is settling, an old-fashioned can have a magical effect on your mood. Don’t let anyone tell you there’s a “correct” technique. No one likes a bar snob. But I’ve had too many watery, overly-fruit-muddled old-fashioneds in restaurants, so now I only trust myself to fix a good one. Here’s my recipe.
First of all, get yourself a silicone ice tray, capable of making 2-inch cubes. Use filtered water to make your cubes. The extra-large size will slow melting.
Again, this is a double, so put two sugar cubes in a double-sized, heavy-bottomed rocks glass. (Some people prefer simple syrup to cut down on graininess, but I rarely have any on hand.) (EDIT: I have since discovered the super-finely grained caster, or “baker’s,” sugar, which will leave no graininess or residue. 1.5 teaspoons is the proper amount.)
Thoroughly coat the cubes in Angostura bitters — accept no substitutes! Don’t be stingy with the bitters, either. Make sure those cubes are doused (8-10 dashes).
Splash in a small amount (about two tablespoons) of carbonated water or club soda.
Squeeze in the juice of ⅛ of a naval orange (or ½ of a small mandarin). Bag and fridge the rest of the orange — it’s good for seven more old-fashioneds.
Muddle the sugar, bitters, water, and orange juice into a slurry with whatever muddling implement you have handy (I use a small ladle). Work it hard — try to dissolve the sugar as much as possible. You won’t dissolve it all, but that’s OK.
Swirl the mixture to coat the inside of the glass, and add the big-ass ice cube
Add two shots (about 3 oz.) of whiskey. The Holy Bee is a rye man, but a Canadian blend such as Crown Royal also works well for a different flavor experience.
Slice your used orange wedge in half to use as the first part of your garnish.
A toothpick is handy to extract a maraschino cherry from its tight little jar. Luxardo (the “original,” imported from Italy) is highly recommended. Add the cherry, and use the toothpick to drizzle in some of the cherry syrup.
Stir one more time. You can splash in a little more club soda if you want (I usually don’t).
Again, there’s no “right” way (except the Angostura bitters), but I prefer not to mush or muddle the fruit garnish. The juice & syrup are already in there, and you’d just be making it look worse from an aesthetic point of view.
The result is a smoky, spicy, sipping drink that goes well with elevated slippered feet, and a good book or whatever episode of an acclaimed cable show strikes your fancy. It should last an hour or so with proper care and handling, and it gets mellower, colder, and sweeter as you consume it. Don’t forget the cherry surprise that rewards you at the end.