Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Best Old Fashioned in Town
I like to sample different bars' takes on the Old Fashioned. These days, seeing an Old Fashioned on a cocktail menu is not an unusual occurance. In fact, it's becoming commonplace. To name a few: at the new East Village bar, Elsa, they make their Old Fashioned with Old Overholt rye, muddled brown sugar and no muddled fruit. At Jack the Horse in Brooklyn Heights they use Rittenhouse rye, vanilla pear syrup, a homemade aromatic tincture, and an orange twist. At White Slab Palace on the Lower East Side they employ, uh, Maker's Mark, blood orange and cherry liqueur. (Haven't tried that last one; I may not.)
But the best rendition of the classic I have encountered is at Prime Meats, a new bar in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It is simplicity itself, with one significant, world-changing alteration. There's the Rittenhouse rye, there's the sugar. But no Angostura. Instead, bartender Damon Boelte has created his own bartlett pear bitters made from a pear tree in the backyard of the bar. In the backyard of the bar. Then, to better match the character of the bitters, the drink is garnished with a big lemon peel, as opposed the more common orange peel.
This is a fantastic Old Fashioned, and I'm rather obsessed with it. I don't know if I've ever enjoyed drinking an Old Fashioned as much as I like drinking this one (and I enjoy my Old Fashioneds). It's so bright in taste, it's sparkles in your nose and on your tongue. Instead of heavy and earthboard, its light and airy. It's the first Old Fashioned I've ever had that I'd thought could be an ideal summer drink. Plus, it is beautiful to look at. Golden.
Strictly speaking, this is not an Old Fashioned because of the change in bitters. But it falls closely enough within the drink model for me to think of it as the best Old Fashioned in New York. Hyperbole, I know.