Editor’s note: It’s no big secret we like to drink. We travel. Write. Film. Photograph. Surf. Skate. And work hard. And we often balance all that with drink. But we’d like to remind you that drinking isn’t for everyone (hell, it’s not for many), and lots of people have bad drinking styles — just like in surfing — so our mission here is to provide you with some realistic advice for the responsible, non-amateur hour drinker. The Radical Class series will be your guide to life on the road, creative new ideas and some unique food and drinks we’ve discovered through extensive late night research. Today, one of our favorite directors of wine and spirits, Paul Brewer, refreshes a classic: The Old Fashioned. —Travis
The old fashioned is our standard. The foundation. The bottom turn of cocktails.
Allow us to illustrate: sure, you can drink without knowing the old fashioned, just like you can surf without a proper bottom turn. You just won’t do either very well. You may fumble down the line, powerless slices and banks off the foam, wasting away life with post-lackluster-surf Keystones and Red Bull vodkas. Let’s agree that’s no way to surf, drink or live.
Point being, learn the bottom turn and learn how to make a proper old fashioned. A firm grasp on its technique and an appreciation of its ingredients will set you up for success with other cocktails.
For those who appreciate roots as much as us, it’s called an old fashioned because it’s the old fashioned way of making mixed cocktails. Naturally. Back when, “cocktail” (adding mixers to liquor) was a term for a morning drink. Your alcoholic ancestors only diluted spirits in a hair of the dog, hangover situation. They added some sugar and some water to lessen the strength, help ‘em get over their pounding heads, and get back to that serious drinking. That’s the essence of the old fashioned: a little booze, a little water, a little sugar.
To make it, there are many techniques. Here’s our preferred:
-First, in a glass, dissolve a bit of sugar (or a cube of it) in a few drops of water by stirring (use water, sugar doesn’t dissolve in booze).
-Then stir in 2 oz of rye whisky and a few dashes of bitters.
-Now, smell it. Taste it. Like it? Drink it. Or, from here, ice is totally optional, as is a splash water (we like both in ours). Never club soda, and for God’s sake no orange slices, cherries, or fruit. A twist of orange peel is best. Shave it off with a peeler, then give it a squeeze over the top… that’s called “expressing” the peel.
As a drink, it’s basic enough to not be a full ordeal to make and strong enough to feel like you’re doing the night right. Three ingredients, damn good.—Paul Brewer