A funny thing often happens when you “go deep” into a subject, you often find yourself back at the beginning. And that is certainly true when you get into cocktails. You may play with tiki, sours, endless Martini and Manhattan variants, molecular mixology, shims, cobblers, smashes, etc. But in the end, you will most likely find yourself a fan of the original cocktail; spirits, sugar, bitters and water. These days, most people call that drink an Old Fashioned.
And even at its most basic, you can still play around with Old Fashioneds. They work with different spirits (beyond whiskey, aged rum or brandy Old Fashioneds are a delight), sweeteners and bitters, and experimentation will yield very tasty results. But the one area we suggest is going back even more to the source, and try using high-proof, “cask-strength” spirits. And we don’t mean “bonded” spirits at 100 proof (although they are great in cocktails) we mean the hard stuff, 110 proof -140 proof. Yup, serious booze.
Now you may say, “whoa, that will be way to strong”. But part of the magic of cocktails is dilution with water; not enough- the drink is too hot, too much- the drink is watery and bland. But if you get it just right, the drink sings. And with cask-strength spirits, the drink not only sings, but changes in the glass as you slowly sip at your cocktail (and we do recommend a slow pace).
Now purists may say that we should use rye instead of bourbon and that you shouldn’t add anything other than water to quality, cask-strength bourbon. And while we understand these arguments, we can say that we prefer bourbon (and there are more cask-strength options available) and that you need to try the Cask-Strength Bourbon Old-Fashioned before you judge it. This drink is true alchemy, always changing over time, but with deep caramel, wood, spice and balanced sweetness throughout. Just try it…
Finally, a drink this good deserves the right ice. A big cube (sphere or square) will slowly melt and change the drink over time. Smaller cubes have more surface area and will melt too quickly. And since this is a slow-sippin’ drink, we suggest the big cubes if you can make / find them. And if you want to geek up and get a nifty Japanese Ice Ball maker….that is fine with us.
- 2 oz. Cask Strength bourbon
- 1/4 oz. rich simple syrup or gum syrup
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Orange or lemon twist (optional)
- Combine all liquid ingredients in a cocktail glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a lowball glass with a large ice-cube. Add twist, if you like. Serve.