I always find it interesting how a drink can become an imbiber's go-to drink. For it, it's a Manhattan. It's tasty, sweet, bitter, and above all, complex. And yet so easy to make. And it allows for many avenues of improvisational riffing.
For my brother, the go-to drink is an Old Fashioned. A much simpler cocktail, the Old Fashioned offers a greater punch with less liquid, and also has the added benefit of having the "masculine" appeal of not being served in a prissy glass.
Properly made, an Old Fashioned is a simple showcasing of the bourbon or rye you're using. The Savoy Cocktail Book gives it as follows:
"Old Fashioned Cocktail
1 Lump Sugar.
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters.
1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whiskey.
Crush sugar and bitters together, add lump of ice, decorate with twist of lemon peel and slice of orange using medium size glass, and stir well."
Given the modern pallet, at the very least, some twist of citrus is generally added. Usually, though, order an Old Fashioned in a bar, and you'll get the inevitable muddling of soda, oranges, and maraschino cherry. Even respectable cocktail books such as American Bar and The Old Mr. Boston's would have you making yourself a watered-down, sickly sweet, fruity Old Fashioned.
It's just not so much for me, especially not the way we're making it these days. So, I wondered, how could I riff on this drink to make it something more to my liking? After a few experiments, here's what I came up with:
3oz Rye Whiskey
5 dashes Fee Bros. Whiskey Bitters
3 dashes Fee Bros. Orange Bitters
1tsp Creme de Cacao
2 brown sugar cubes
Place sugar cubes in a lowball glass. Cover with bitters and Creme de Cacao and crush into a paste. Add Whiskey and stir lightly. Add ice.
This makes an excellent wintery cocktail, with the rye and whiskey bitters giving it a great spicy flavour smoothed out by the orange and chocolate, which I've always found to be a great combination.
This cocktail was a big hit when I introduced it to my brother at a recent dinner party. We used the spherical ice cube trays he gave me to make the perfect ice for this cocktail. You can get them here: http://www.momastore.org/museum/moma/ProductDisplay_Spherical%20Ice%20Tray_10451_10001_27651_-1_11515_11521_null__ , and I recommend that you do!