Tuesday, February 17, 2015
On 11:34 AM by email@example.com in #FTB, Book, bourbon, Cocktails, Daniel, Old Fashioned, Review, vintage cocktails, whiskey No comments
I used to haunt a great bar in central Virginia that used to be a watering hole for the old C & O railroad company. As one would expect, the bar with its artisanally rough-hewn wood bar, stools, and church-pew benches stocked some of the best bourbons, whiskies, ryes, and corn whiskeys. The only problem was that the salty-dog of a bartender hated making an Old Fashioned. A Sazerac or Manhattan never got much gruff, but the bartender saw the common version of the drink as a fruit salad soaking in rail bourbon. My tenure at the C & O would lead me to learn a little of what Robert Simonson fleshes out in The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the Word's First Classic Cocktail with Recipes & Lore.
The story of the drink starts out with the whiskey cocktail that consisted of the basics for any true cocktail: spirits, bitters, sugar and water. The original "Whiskey Cocktail" first appeared with a recipe that called for a few dashes of Boker's bitters, double the number of dashes of gum syrup, and a "wine-glass" of whiskey. This recipe came from Jerry Thomas's How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant's Companion the first true collection of cocktail recipes printed in 1862. According to Simonson, this initiated a century of debate of what would constitute a true Whiskey Cocktail or as it came to be known an Old-Fashioned. The later moniker came from a rejection of fashionable variations that included absinthe, pineapple, and a slew of other "improvements." Around the turn of the century, requesting an "old-fashion" cocktail meant that you were a serious appreciator of the original concept of what the cocktail was intended for: a morning pick-me-up to stimulate the appetite for breakfast and prepare for the day. With great historical background and entertaining prose, Simonson's book paves the way for a cocktail junky to order an Old Fashioned with confidence and delight.
Simonson parses out the fashionable trends from the 1800's on, how they came about, and what new trend drove them under. As a result, The Old-Fashioned is a valuable guide for the casual and the professional alike. With plenty of trivia and debate, a reader is sure to gain an appreciation for today's meandering cocktail culture and have plenty to consider while working through the 40 glorious recipes in the back half of the book. So what will become of the cocktail as even more rare and expensive concoctions rest behind the bar? Will the bourbon craze carve away at the caché of the mixologist and make way for the spirits sommelier to assemble long lists of whiskeys from around the world and the US? Its great food for thought while sipping a light drink as the sun rises over the brunchers of New York.
~ Daniel, Our New York and Washington Wine Buyer
Robert Simonson will join us on Friday, February 20th from 4 to 7pm for cocktail demonstrations and brief conversations about his book available at our store and online.
For your own drinking pleasure, here is a video from Smooth Ambler Spirits to see how a "true" old fashioned is made.