Autumnal Old Fashioned

Photo courtesy of santheo. Some rights reserved (Flickr, CC)

Just a short seasonal post to mark the end of British Summer Time. As the evenings draw in and we begin the inexorable march towards Christmas it’s always useful to have a mellow spiced drink on hand to warm your toes after a long day of present shopping.

We start with a simple variation of the classic Old Fashioned:

  1. Add equal parts bourbon and applejack, a barspoon of honey and three dashes of your most autumnal bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into an old fashioned glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

On an exceptionally cold evening, or when the spirit of adventure takes you, this drink is also very good served warm and (in larger quantities). Combine the whiskey, applejack, honey and bitters with some winter spices (perhaps star anise, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, or cardamom) and orange and lemon wheels in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Lower the heat and simmer gently for twenty minutes. Ladle into a mug and serve steaming hot.

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Return of the Mad Men

Photo created at http://www.MadMenYourself.com, all rights reserved.

A post tonight to celebrate the upcoming return of Mad Men to our TV screens after a break of over a year.  This American drama, set in a New York advertising agency in the 1960s has been credited with sparking a sixties revival in fashion, and as part of that, in drinking fashion.  As a result, here is a quick rundown of some of the characters’ favourite drinks, as told to your host, on his internship at Sterling Cooper (pictured above handing Mr Draper his morning paper and Old Fashioned).

Vodka Gimlet

The Gimlet is attributed to the Royal Navy who added gin to their scurvy-avoidance rations of gin to help it go down.  The vodka alternative became more popular in the 1960s, and Betty Draper is partial to the occasional Vodka Gimlet whilst conducting extra-marital affairs.

  1. Add a large measure of vodka and the juice of one lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Tom Collins

The Collins family were raised in New York in the 1870s.  Tom always drank his with gin, while John preferred bourbon, and cousin Juan preferred tequila.  These may not be a favourite of Sally Draper (we hope) but she’s been mixing them for her parents and their friends from a young age.

  1. Add a large measure of gin, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a highball.
  3. Top up with soda water, add ice and garnish with a wedge of lemon, orange and cherry.

Stinger

A classic drink of the fifties where Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield shared them onscreen in Kiss Them For Me, the Stinger is also one of Peggy Olsen’s choices when out on the town.

  1. Add a measure of brandy and a measure of crème de menthe to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake and strain into a brandy glass.

Old Fashioned

This favourite of Don Draper and yours truly has been covered elsewhere, but let’s just say that like your author, Don Draper can mix these like a pro – and Conrad Hilton can attest to that.

  1. Muddle a sugar cube, two dashes of bitters and a sploosh of water in a rocks glass.
  2. Add ice and a large measure of whiskey. Stir and serve.

Bloody Mary

A breakfast-time classic, and a staple of the Sterling Cooper meeting room.  The Bloody Mary was developed as a hangover cure in 1920s’ Paris.  Use pepper vodka for even more of a kick.

  1. Shake a large measure of vodka, a (slightly) larger measure of tomato juice, the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of horseradish, a sploosh of Worcestershire sauce and a sploosh of Tabasco with ice.
  2. Strain into a highball.
  3. Garnish with pepper, a wedge of lime and a stalk of celery.

Brandy Alexander

Another favourite of Peggy Olsen this milkshake-like drink was originally made with gin (an Alexander), which sounds truly horrific.  Try it with brandy instead and it becomes more like a dessert.

  1. Shake a measure of brandy, a measure of crème de cacao and measure of single cream with ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with ground nutmeg.

Gibson Martini

Roger Sterling, a self-confessed fan of only clear drinks, will opt for a Gibson, when a straight Martini just won’t cut it.  Just be careful you don’t have too many with your oyster lunch.

  1. Stir a large measure of gin with a measure of dry vermouth and ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with three or four cocktail onions.

Negroni

The Negroni is a love it/hate it gin-based cocktail invented in 1920’s Florence by Fosco Scarselli at the behest of Count Camillo Negroni who ordered an “Americano con gin”.  Instead of getting a disturbing take on the Irish coffee, the Count was given a refreshing Campari and sweet vermouth drink with the added kick of a measure of gin, which Orson Welles described a perfectly balanced: “the bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you.  They balance each other.”

While the Negroni is nominally an aperetif, due to its use of  Campari, it can be a little brutal to an empty stomach, belying its light fruity and botanical nose.  But don’t worry, the bitters are excellent for your liver!

The classic Negroni is made as follows:

  1. Pour a measure each of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth into a mixing glass.
  2. Fill the glass 2/3 full of ice and stir for sixty seconds.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with a slice of orange or lemon.

Popular variations include the Sbagliato (wrong) Negroni (with prosecco instead of gin), the Boulevardier (with bourbon instead of gin) and the Negroski (vodka instead of gin).

Old Fashioned

Photo by ReeseCLloyd, some rights reserved.

Legend has it that the Old Fashioned was one of the first cocktails ever created. The story is that it was conceived at The Pendennis Club, Louisville, Kentucky in the late nineteenth century, and having been popularised by local bourbon distiller Colonel (of course!) James Pepper, it was taken to New York to be enjoyed by such luminaries as Sterling Cooper’s own Don Draper.

There is much to support the Old Fashioned’s claim to be one of the oldest known cocktails. You will see from my Bittered Slings post that it neatly fits the early criteria of a bittered sling or cocktail, as it contains just the liquor (in this case whiskey), bitters, sugar and water (in this case frozen).

Whatever its vintage, however, the Old Fashioned is a punchy cocktail for those who hold no truck with paper umbrellas and sparklers getting in the way of their imbibement. The exact composition is something that enthusiasts can argue about for days. Does an Old Fashioned require rye or bourbon? A muddled orange? A cherry? The earliest known recipe (dating from 1895 no less) instructs:

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one measure whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass. – Kappeler (1895). Modern American Drinks: How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks.

Now aside from running the risk of poking your eye out with a bar spoon, this recipe neglects the now expected hint of orange. For that reason, my preferred method is as follows:

  1. Place a sugar cube (or a teaspoon of sugar syrup or sugar), three dashes of bitters and a dash of water in a mixing glass.
  2. Muddle (i.e. mush up) until the sugar dissolves and you are left with a syrupy paste. Don’t scrimp on the muddling, the sugar needs to be fully dissolved before the whiskey is added or it won’t bind properly.
  3. Add a two ice cubes and a measure of whiskey.
  4. Stir gently (thirty times).
  5. Repeat steps three and four.
  6. Strain into a rocks glass (also known as an od fashioned glass) with or without ice (your preference).
  7. Garnish with a twist of orange or lemon peel or a cherry.

Finally, by no means even consider adding soda water or *gasp* lemonade.

What you are left with is a small glass of pure cocktail history: spirits, sugar, water and bitters.