Revive, reinvent, revitalize, renew. All of these words mean virtually the same thing. Giving a new life to something familiar and ordinary is no new trade in the culinary world. People have been remaking old dishes with a new twist for centuries. The key to doing this and making it work is creating a significant improvement on the original. Slight change is hardly worth the effort but departing too far from the original can leave one wondering what it really is imitating anyway.
Take the Old Fashioned for example: Considered to be one of the six basic drinks, its recipe (spirits, bitters, waters and sugar) is the first to be associated with the word “cocktail” back in 1806. Its not called the old fashioned for nothing. Supposedly developed by a bartender in Louisville, Kentucky, the cocktail gained popularity after its appearance at the Waldorf Hotel’s bar in New York. During prohibition, the recipe changed slightly, with the appearance of fruit, as the quality of alcohol decreased and drinkers relied on fruit juices and tonics to help their drinks go down easier. Recipes change from region to region, with different liquors and mixers making appearances.
Not too long ago, most bartenders would tell you that the average age of someone who orders an old fashioned is somewhere past middle age. With the increasing popularity in small batch bourbon, specialty bitters and infused aromatics, a resurgence and appreciation for the original drink of choice has begun. We’ve entered a new era where familiar favorites like cosmopolitans, mojitos and pom-tinis are being left to linger in the footsteps of original American classics.
The beauty of the Old Fashioned is that recipe is easily varied. Try using different bitters, sweeteners or even infused spirits with fruit, spices, teas or coffee to add an unexpected flavor. When muddling sugar and fruit, why not try doing so with brown sugar, honey or maple?
Here’s my favorite mix, made with a fall twist: spice infused bourbon.
The New Old Fashioned
2 oz infused Bourbon (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 orange slice
1 dash bitters
Combine the sugar, bitters, orange and 1 tsp. water in an old-fashioned glass. Muddle well, add bourbon, and stir. Pour over ice, finish with soda water.
Spice Infused Bourbon
1 bottle of bourbon (I recommend Bulleit)
One large orange
2 fresh vanilla pods
2 whole cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
1/4 cup honey
- Empty bottle into a large bottle or container with a large surface area.
- Holding the fruit over the top, remove the peel of the orange, so that the bourbon catches not only the zest but also juice released.
- Score and open up vanilla pods along their lengths so that seeds are exposed. Add to the bourbon with the cinnamon and clove. Seal the container or put into a new bottle.
- Let sit for at least two weeks, shaking occasionally. Remove peel and spices before drinking or using
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