An autumnal twist on a classic cocktail.
I look forward to Saturday night all week long. Saturday night = date night. My husband and I order pizza, put in a good movie or binge watch our favorite show, and enjoy a delicious, boozy cocktail.
My hubby and I’s usual cocktail of choice: the venerable old fashioned.
An old fashioned is a deceivingly simple drink. It’s made with only three ingredients: rye whiskey or bourbon, bitters, and sugar; typically garnished with an orange peel and cherry. But the amount of each ingredient is crucial. And there is a certain level of care needed in crafting this cocktail.
Luckily, I have learned from one of the best old fashioned makers around: my father-in-law. My father-in-law makes a mean old fashioned. It’s always the perfect balance of sweet and boozy, with a subtle hint of citrus from the orange peel.
I have studied his technique to understand how he creates the perfect drink each time: he starts by combining a packet of Splenda (sounds crazy, but works oh so well), 3-4 dashes of bitters, and a splash of club soda (but no more than a splash) in the bottom of a low-ball glass. He then takes a peel from an orange (the thickness of the peel depends on personal preference; he uses a thick orange peel). Next, he uses a wooden muddler and grinds the orange peel into the bottom of the glass with the bitter solution (this is how he achieves that great citrusy note). He also throws in a Luxardo cherry and smashes it with the bitter orange mixture (which provides a sweet, complex note that balances out the harshness from the bourbon). He places the ice (preferably a round or perfectly square ice cube) into the glass and pours in the bourbon (usually a heavy pour). Finally, he skewers one more Luxardo cherry and uses it as a stirrer to mix the cocktail. If you have a bad sweet tooth (I do!), you can add a bit of the Luxardo cherry juice, which is dark, sticky, and sweet (yum!). Perfection!
He also taught me some very important rules about making this cocktail: 1. You must use quality Kentucky bourbon since it is the cornerstone of the drink; 2. You must use the big ice cube as it will cause less dilution of your delicious bourbon; 3. You must complete the cocktail with a luxurious, ruby red Luxardo maraschino cherries (they are a little pricey but soo soo much better than the fake, overly processed bright red cherries found in Shirley temples); 4. The last, most important rule, is you must give the first sip to your spouse or significant other. Cheers to that!
Sit back, relax, and enjoy. This is the type of cocktail to sip and savor. It gets better the longer it sits. The big ice cubs slowly melts into the boozy concoction, subtly combining all of the flavors lingering in the glass. My absolute favorite part of enjoying an old fashioned is eating the cherry at the end. The cherry patiently sits at the bottom of the glass, soaking up all the flavors of the old fashioned. When you eat it, it’s an amazing burst of bourbon and fruit.
I look forward to enjoying one of these perfectly made old fashioned every time we visit my hubby’s family. When I see my father-in-law grab the muddler, cherry, and bourbon, I know I am in for a treat. Although it’s hard, I have to limit myself to only one of these delicious cocktails. They are pretty boozy (remember that heavy pour).
Now that I understand the steps to making an old fashioned, my hubby and I enjoy them frequently at home, especially on our Saturday date night. Although I stick to the precise methodology of my father-in-law’s technique, I tinkered the recipe slightly. I incorporated some favorite seasonal ingredients, like cinnamon, clove, and maple, to give a fun twist on the classic. I call it my maple spice old fashioned!
The only real difference in my version is using a maple simple syrup in place of the Splenda/club soda mix. To make the maple spice simple syrup, I combined equal parts maple syrup and water in a saucepan. I also added 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 star anise pods, and a handful of whole cloves. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, then take off the heat. Then I let the mixture cool in the sauce pan for about an hour. This gives the spices a chance to seep into the maple mixture.
Once my simple syrup is ready, I carefully craft the cocktail according to my father in law’s instructions.
I think my father-in-law would approve of my slight variation of his recipe! The maple spiced simple syrup totally works in this drink. Maple–with its sweet, rich, nutty notes–adds flavor to the drink, without overpowering the bourbon. The spices are subtle but provide an unexpected “pop” to the drink. A sip feels like a big bear hug, with the warm spices and powerful bite of the bourbon. The perfect fall cocktail to enjoy with a movie on a chilly, rainy Saturday night.
Now, with a delicious cocktail in hand, enjoy the company of your significant other and have a lovely date night!
Maple Spice Bourbon Old Fashioned
Maple Simple Syrup Ingredients
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 T whole cloves
- In a small sauce pan, combine the syrup and water and stir until combine. Add in the cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and cloves.
- Heat on medium heat until it just starts to simmer. Take off heat.
- Let cool completely.
- Strain out spices and pour mixture into a container. Store in fridge for a month.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 2 tsps. maple spice simple syrup (more or less depending on your desired sweetness)
- 3-4 dashes bitters
- 1 slice orange peel
- 1-3 Luxardo maraschino cherries
- Combine the simple syrup and bitters to a low-ball glass.
- Add the orange peel to the glass.
- Use a muddler to smash the orange peel into the bottom of the glass with bitter solutions.
- Toss in one Luxardo cherry and smash with bitter solutions.
- Place large ice cube in the bottom of the glass. Pour in bourbon. Use spoon to mix all the ingredients.
- Garnish with Luxardo cherries.
- Serve and enjoy!