There is absolutely no good excuse for drinking a bad Old-Fashioned. The days of sticky-sweet fruit salad specimens with questionable cherries of a neon-red hue that does not exist in the natural world are fewer and further between, as a sea-change of stand-up, stand-out versions of the drink take their place. But really, these recipes aren’t modern; they’re a near mirror image of the original cocktail.
In his seminal book on the topic, The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail with Recipes & Lore (you can grab a copy at BookHampton), cocktail authority Robert Simonson takes a dive into the history of the drink and muses on its hiding-in-plain-site origins. Its original, pure form, he reasons, is a combination of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters—the original components of a cocktail when the word was first attached to that very definition in The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, NY, on May 13, 1806.
“Here is a drink where both the flavor and color of the base spirit shines,” writes Simonson. “When properly made according to its original specifications, the Old-Fashioned’s amber glow is no longer obscured by phosphorescent refugees from the produce department.”
And once it reclaimed its rightful, respectable place in the cocktail canon, that base spirit became a place of play for many bartenders, swapping out whiskey for other standout spirits that deserved a highlight. One such invention was the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, created in 2007 at Death & Co. by bartender Phil Ward. Here, Ward combined both tequila and mezcal—then just at the very beginning of the latter’s eventual meteoric rise in popularity—smartly complementing the spirits with agave instead of the Old-Fashioned’s traditional sugar. So wonderful was this spirited illumination, it’s become a classic in its own right.
Like the Old-Fashioned, another classic, Hampton Bay’s Canoe Place Inn, underwent a dusting off itself. If you haven’t visited and checked out the stunning, hyper-detailed renovation, make tracks to Good Ground Tavern, sidle up to the pretty bar and order their Mezcal Old-Fashioned, Good Ground’s nod to Ward’s Oaxaca ah-ha moment. Can’t get there tonight? Give their recipe a shot.
- 1 cube Demerara sugar
- 5 dashes Bitterman's mole bitters
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 oz Montelobos mezcal
- 1 oz Milagro tequila
- 1 large king ice cube
- 1 orange twist