Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Squid Mixes: Old-Fashioned Whiskey
The old-fashioned was, for a long time, the king of cocktails. As it contains many of the same ingredients as my personal favorite, the Manhattan, I've been wanting to give it a try for a while. However, I have had to avoid the drink for what I consider to be a highly amusing reason: my wife doesn't like having sugar cubes around the house. Too tempting for snacking.
Most modern old-fashioned recipes (oxymoron?) involve sugar cubes, you see. Put the cube in the bottom of the glass, add a little water and bitters, muddle to dissolve the sugar before adding everything else. Why a cube? It's an easily controlled quantity, usually 3/4 tsp - an annoying amount to have to measure. Older recipes don't involve cubes which is handy for my house.
My recipe came from Imbibe! by David Wondrich. It combines the sugar (1/2 tsp) and water with whiskey, Angostura bitters and lemon peel. For those keeping score at home, the basic change in a Manhattan is the use of vermouth as a sweetener in place of the sugar. No shaker or mixing glass involved - an old-fashioned is prepared right in the serving glass. The recipe specifies leaving the spoon in when serving, presumably to stir in any undissolved sugar.
It's a lovely drink but you'd better like your whiskey. My wife described it as "bracing." Wondrich also includes brandy and gin options in the text. Might be worth trying sometime.
So, why did the old-fashioned fall out of favor? The preparation is rather fussy compared to younger concoctions. But Eric Felten blames John Updike. In his book How's Your Drink? (review soon), Felten makes the case: the old-fashioned is the drink of choice for Janice Angstrom, the protagonist's alcoholic wife in Rabbit, Run, Updike's breakthrough novel.
I guess Janice liked her whiskey.
Drink responsibly, friends.