So the other day at work, there I was killing time, listlessly visiting my usual round of interesting interweb stops, when I decided out of desperation to check out the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. There I found a lively discussion of a cocktail I’d been circling warily for the last few weeks: the Old Fashioned. I don’t know what was compelling me to consider giving this drink a try, but I kept buying oranges on my weekly grocery runs and then using them in something else entirely and forgetting all about my Old Fashioned aspirations. But here — in the Paper of Record, no less — was a rambling series of personal opinions and histories of the drink, and after successfully killing off a huge chunk of my day reading about it, I was ready to give it a try.
The plan of attack was simple. Pookie doesn’t like drinks that taste like “nail polish remover”, so I figured this was not the quaff for her. It had to be done while she was at work, on a Wednesday, while Boomer and I are twiddling our thumbs and waiting for her to get home. I had everything already on hand, including the maraschino cherries, and was ready to go. I explained my motivations to Boomer, and she was excited to give it a try, because she could remember her stepfather, Cowboy Red, drinking them when she was young. And so, with a light hand (it is a weeknight, after all), I assembled it as best I could from the New York Times conversation.
I muddled about a teaspoon of sugar, an orange slice, four drops of Angostura bitters, and just enough water to make everything moistened. Then I topped it with ice. Then I topped that with two ounces of bourbon (Boomer’s choice, from her old drinking days before we were born), and then I topped that with a splash of seltzer. I stirred it, and dropped in a cherry.
This is a soothing, mellow, delightful cocktail. It’s something that can easily be played with and improved on, jiggering and rejiggering the components to your tastes. I can see why it’s so enduring, and I can see it being something that I continue to figure out as life goes on. (The next variation I try is going to be the Wisconsin version, using brandy and 7-Up; as soon as I mentioned it to Boomer she said, “That’s it! That’s what Red used to drink!”) What I especially loved about having this one on this day is that I normally spend Wednesdays waiting for Pookie to get home by descending into a dullardly, unhappy false sense of tiredness. I IM with her and space out and play computer solitaire and generally fall into a deep, miserable funk. But tonight, when I settled down with my laptop and took a sip of my drink, instead of feeling like, “Aw, crap. Another Wednesday,” I instead felt like, “Ahhhhh. The weekend is drawing near, I’m home, I’m comfy, and life is really, really good.”
It should be noted, too, that my favorite comments in the Times thread were from people talking about learning to make an Old Fashioned from their father, or their mother, or grandfather, or grandmother, stories about the fabrics of their families and cherished, everyday family traditions. One person talked about how his father would make their mother and himself an Old Fashioned almost every day, and after the father died, the mother asked her son to make them for her whenever he visited. And he knew he wasn’t making them right, but kept working. And finally he hit a consistency with the drink that every time he visited, she would accept the drink, sit back, and sigh happily, “It’s just like your father used to make.” He knew it wasn’t, but what she meant was that it meant just as much to enjoy a carefully-crafted drink with a loved one. As Boomer and I toasted each other with our Old Fashioneds today, we both happily noted how much we love having that sort of thing in our lives, the way we all take the time to enjoy each other’s company and the carefully-crafted things we share with each other.
(Posted by Schnookie)