The Old Fashioned may be tops, but bring on the Bamboo!

The Old Fashioned is the top-selling cocktail in the world, according to Drinks International. photo

In January, Drinks International, a trade publication for the alcohol industry, released its annual list of the 50 best cocktails—or at least the best-selling ones—around the world. It’s perhaps no big surprise that the top drink, for the fifth year running, was that classic whisky-based bittered sling, the Old Fashioned.

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Perfect Pears

Fall’s favourite tree fruit makes a great addition to autumnal cocktails

Perfectly preserved pears, from left, as purée, in syrup or dehydrated into chips. Dan Toulgoet photo

There is a sublime comfort in autumn, as the breezy aroma of fallen leaves wafts away the smoke of our sultry summer. One of my favourite things to do in the fall is to cruise out to the local farmers markets and fill my basket with delicious local fruits and vegetables. As a cocktail maker, I love loading up on things that I can preserve and keep around through what is sure to be another cold, wet and dreary Vancouver winter.

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Golden Oldie

The name may sound dated, but the Old Fashioned remains a classic for a reason. The Alchemist asked Sabrine Dhaliwal, Bar Manager at Uva, to let us in on its secrets.

Sabrine Dhaliwal stirs up a classic. Dan Toulgoet photo.

The Old Fashioned is amazing — simple and complex at the same time. On paper it is minimal — spirit, bitters, sugar and water (via the dilution of ice) — but what is critical for an Old Fashioned is getting that balance right. You get the balance right, you have a beautiful cocktail, but if you don’t, there’s nowhere to hide. The fewer the ingredients in a cocktail, the more skill needed to make it.

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Old Fashioned

Sabrine Dhaliwal’s Old Fashioned. Dan Toulgoet photo.

The classic whisky cocktail.

• 2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
• 1 tsp granulated sugar
• 2 dashes Bittered Sling Kensington Aromatic Bitters
• Orange twist and brandied cherry for garnish

Add the sugar to an Old Fashioned glass, wet with bitters and (if using a sugar cube) muddle to dissolve. Add bourbon and a single large ice cube, stir for eight to 10 seconds and garnish with an orange twist and a brandied cherry.

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Sticky Toffee Old Fashioned

The Sticky Toffee Old Fashioned by David Warren.

The Salted Vine Kitchen + Bar’s David Warren combines several trends in this drink, including updated vintage cocktails and culinary techniques – this was inspired by Chef Jeff Pat’s sticky toffee pudding on the dessert menu.

2 oz (60 mL) Bulleit bourbon
¾ oz (22 mL) date syrup (see note)
Dash Fee Brothers black walnut bitters
Dash Angostura bitters
Sash Regan’s Orange bitters

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Hendrick’s Gin Old Fashioned

Wildebeest’s Hendrick’s gin variation on the Old Fashioned. Wildebeest photo

Floral, fragrant and refreshing – Josh Pape’s gin-based take on the Old Fashioned has been a huge hit at Wildebeest.

1-inch cylinder of cucumber, or ½ oz (15 mL) cucumber juice
2 oz (60 mL) Hendrick’s gin
2 tsp (10 mL) runny honey (see note)
2 dashes Scrappy’s lavender bitters
Cucumber slice to garnish (optional)

Muddle the cucumber in a mixing glass. (Alternatively, stir in the cucumber juice with the rest of the ingredients.) Add ice, gin, runny honey and bitters and stir until the drink is well chilled and has reached your ideal level of dilution. Fine strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. If you like, garnish with a slice of cucumber. Serves 1.

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Old Fashioned refashioned at Wildebeest

Cocktail-forward restaurant serving nine new takes on the classic for its fifth birthday

Four of the nine variations on the Old Fashioned on the menu at Wildebeest, which include versions made with rum, gin, tequila and bacon bourbon. Wildebeest photo

The Old Fashioned is, arguably, the original cocktail, or at least, the whisky version of it.

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Spicy Oaxaca Old Fashioned

The Spicy Oaxaca Old Fashioned by Justin Taylor. Danika Sea photo.

2 oz mezcal
0.5 oz cocoa nib syrup*
2 dashes Scrappy’s Fire Water
1 dash Angostura bitters
orange zest for garnish

Pre-chill an Old Fashioned glass. Add all liquid ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 20 seconds. Strain cocktail into the glass, over fresh ice. Garnish with orange zest.

*Cocoa nib syrup: Add 1 cup cocoa nibs, 1 cup raw sugar and 1.5 cups water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow syrup to cool and strain into a sealable bottle or mason jar and refrigerate (it will keep for about four weeks). Dry the nibs on parchment paper to use as garnish.

—by Justin Taylor


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