The Hunt For Augusta’s Best Old Fashioned
The Old-Fashioned. Perhaps the most quintessentially perfect cocktail. All of our bartenders agreed it’s a classic that one must master in this biz. While the OF has evolved over the last 100+ years to include sundry flourishes, the OG OF must remain loyal to four ingredients: whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water/ice. Because there are so few ingredients in this spirit-forward cocktail, they should be of high-quality. It’s all about balance.
So what was I looking for on this tour? I expected recipe loyalty, but I also like a little adulteration (read bartender flair) as long as it’s not blasphemous. I love a swill of bitters in the glass and orange spritzed + rubbed on the rim. A big, sexy cube of ice is de rigueur. And if there’s a cherry? It better not be neon red.
*The bartenders featured here were nominated by my Instagram followers.
Sarah made two unconventional OFs, harnessing flames for each drink to caramelize sugar + express citrus oils. She’s a true artist. I love that she used rye. The creaminess in the toasted marshmallow persimmon OF was unexpected. The drink tasted like a cozy campfire and I applaud her swagger. Sarah has finesse and her drinks taste like pure poetry.
Craft & Vine
Calvin chose a barrel strength 116 proof whiskey (Beau Jack from Second City Distillery in Augusta) + Regan’s orange bitters (42% alcohol). The strong presence of orange bitters gave it a clean + pure taste. And then there’s the way he slaps his zest.
Edgar’s Above Broad
Tito’s recipe is steadfast; his style of drink is a typically sought after OF with all the nostalgia. Classic. Absolutely classic. Big cube. Big orange peel. Two of the things I love about an OF. And Tito danced on the Boozy Photo Booth webcam with us, so…
Finch & Fifth
To complement his choice of 1792, Bradley used orange bitters + black walnut bitters, which create a viscous texture. I love the addition of walnut bitters for their earthiness and their silky mouthfeel. And then there’s that slow-melting, hefty cube…
Sean prefers to use Bulliet rye, which has a certain spiciness. He also added one of those muy delicioso cherries. Those cherries soak in a liqueur made from grinding their pits (among other things), so there’s an essence of almond in this drink.
Brittney used not only orange but also lemon for spritzing and rubbing around the rim. The lemon’s oil is fragrant + adds some zing, which is nice in a heavy, spirit-forward drink. It was very traditional; loyal to the original recipe. I like all the citrus. And I really like that she iced + stirred the cocktail, then poured it into a new glass with fresh ice.
Arsenal Tap Room + Kitchen
Bartender: Frankie & Meghan
For the classic Old Fashioned, Frankie used a really good cherry (Luxardo) and a very deliberate twist of orange to express the oils. There’s a reason why the Old Fashioned survived Prohibition, and Frankie likes to keep it that way. It was sweet. A great version of the classic. And you know I love the bougie cherry, especially complemented by the tart orange oil.
For the New Fashioned, Meghan added tuaca, a vanilla-flavored brandy liqueur with hints of citrus. Her base liquor is Sazerac rye which tastes of spice + caramel with light oakiness. Meghan’s New Fashioned hits different. The vanilla gives it a lovely fragrance – reminiscent of Vanilla Coke.
Sheehan’s Irish Pub
Megan chose to remove the peel from the orange and muddled the fruit, giving the drink a beautiful pink hue. Her OF is very cold, which was a welcomed diversion given the temperature of the day. I like that she took what is known to be a warming cocktail and made it refreshing. It probably deserves its own name.
An over-proofed spirit with a touch of sugar + bitters + water to quell that spirit’s temper. That’s an Old-Fashioned. With a recipe so rigid, how does one choose the best among eight bartenders? The truth is: I can’t. But I appreciated how each bartender signed their masterpieces.
Congratulations to all the nominees. If people say I am overly obsessed with bartenders, they are not wrong.
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