What’s Old Is New Again

Looking at the cocktails menus of some of the in bars of New York, one is encouraged to see that the Old-Fashioned Cocktail is still a mainstay. Yes, it might have lemonade added or a dash of hefeweizen, but the main elements are recognizably the same: whiskey, gomme syrup, bitters, and a fruit element of some kind (usually).

The cocktail itself was originally was whiskey (or other spirits), sugar, bitters, and the Old-Fashioned was so named in the later 1800s to remember the original confection.

The best one I had on my recent NY sojourn was a fairly sweet one at The Gingerman, made with Old Overholt rye. A current article in the NYT bemoans the severe shortage of aged rye, but fortunately for fans of the Old Fashioned, young rye or other fairly vigorous whiskey (not > six or eight years IMO) is best anyway. Nothing worse in a cocktail than the taste of cold woody char.

Looking at my resources to make one, I decided, first, to use American whiskeys. While excellent results can be gleaned from Canuck rye or a combination of that and American, I thought I would use just American.

I had some high proof Pikesville, probably around six years old, antediluvian by modern standards unless you have a 1000 sawbucks in your pocket. But it works well and the extra proof is just a bonus. The fairly young Bower Hill Reserve Rye, a non-distilling producer’s product sourced from MGP in Indiana (a former Seagram plant), would blend well with this.

A case of May to December so to speak. But what to do for the sugar?

I never know where to find bar syrup, and while I can use granulated and liquefy it with hot water as the old manuals suggested, I looked around for another, um, solution. Jacquin’s Rock and Rye, a cordial which is a very sweet combination of sugar, rye whiskey, and fruit flavourings, was just the thing.

I used about a third each, and came up with a fine Old Fashioned. Even that dilution hardly blunted the sweet attack of the Jacquin given how much sucrose it has to start with. And its riot of citrus and other flavours – celery, oddly, makes an appearance – gave the cocktail its needed fruity tang.

Finally, with Angostura, the result was perfect.