You’ll know from our post on Blackberry Whisky and what to do with it that we love an Old Fashioned here at Havenwards. (C is also a fan of the New Orleans variant, the Sazerac, partly because it brings Absinthe to the party, which is always fun.)
With an Old Fashioned, you have the beauty of simplicity - three ingredients: Bourbon, simple syrup and bitters. Like a Martini, within these three ingredients, you can produce awesome variety.
We won’t be adjusting the Bourbon today - and our home-made bitters aren’t quite ready for experimentation yet… But simple syrups? Those we can play with very easily, and get very quick results. So strap in, for our straightforward Old Fashioned recipe, and three variations that are worth a shot!
How to make: simple sugar syrup
Equal parts water and sugar
Combine sugar and water in a pan (usually 1 cup or 240 mls of each). Heat until the sugar has dissolved, simmer for a few minutes gently. Sugar syrup should run slightly slowly off a spoon, but not stick to the pan. It should also be clear, not caramelized. If it’s gone golden brown you’ve cooked it a bit too much…
One of the things that surprises us is that people will buy pre-prepared simple syrup when it really is - as the name suggests - the cheapest and simplest thing to make yourself.
10 ml (2 tsp) simple sugar syrup
50 ml Bourbon
Dash of bitters (of your choice; typically Angostura Bitters)
Muddle ingredients together; serve on the rocks. Feel smug about your cocktail consumption.
The English Autumn
The only variant here is the syrup.
Boil the water with 2 tablespoons of Burdock root and 1 broken up liquorice root (we found these at a local healthfood store) and quarter of a teaspoon of ground black pepper.
Simmer for 15 minutes. The water should take on a nice, golden brown colour; autumnal, even.
Strain the liquid into a new pan; discard the solids - preferably into compost if you have access to that.
Add your sugar to the flavoured water, and prepare the syrup as normal.
When it comes to making your cocktail, use the flavoured syrup instead of simple syrup and proceed as normal.
This makes enough for many cocktails, so store your syrup in a clean glass bottle in a fridge.
The Smokey Old Fashioned
This variant uses the delicious tea, Lapsang Souchong, to impart a rich, smokey bonfire flavour to the syrup. I love Lapsang for its unusual taste and smell - to me it’s like standing next to a bonfire in the back garden in the late Autumn. It shouldn’t be too hard to find loose-leaf Lapsang Souchong, so this should be easy to do zero waste if you can get it from a bulk store.
Either cold brew tea (add a generous tablespoon of tea leaves to 250 mls of cold water in a jar; leave to stand in the fridge for 12 hours; strain and carry on), or add the same quantities to a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain off the liquid and put the leaves in the compost.
Make your simple syrup with the brewed liquid.
Use this in your old fashioned in place of the usual syrup.
If you really want to go ultra-smokey, swap half a measure of bourbon for an Islay or other peated whisky.
We served this with cardamom bitters and it was Autumnal perfection.
The Not-So-Famous Grouse (Canadian Old Fashioned)
P has fond memories of taking the Grouse Grind in Vancouver - it’s an amazing mountain trail with beautiful views, great wildlife and a lovely visitor’s centre at the top. She got a bit too excited by the skunks she encountered on the route, much to the concern of her Canadian friends… The only thing that would have improved the climb would have been to sip one of these while she enjoyed the view.
Again, all we’re doing is varying the syrup here - this time using maple syrup. As this is a sweeter syrup than usual, go heavier on the bitters. Again, cardamom works really well here.
bring to boil 250 ml water, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 vanilla pod. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon and vanilla, and add 4 tbsp of maple syrup, and 100ml of caster sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and simmer down until you have about 175ml of syrup.
It should very much taste of maple syrup, but the vanilla and cinnamon shouldn’t be lost. Cool, and then use in your cocktail as before.