Some of the best ideas are the simplest. Bartender Neyah White has come up with one of the best, and simplest, I've seen in a long time: The Old Fashioned Bar.
Participating in SFChefs.Food.Wine in Union Square, San Francisco, he set up a station where drinkers would have access to every possible ingredient option on the way to cocktail hour: whiskey, sweetener, bitters. I'll let White tell the rest:
Rather than committing to one spirit, I decided to call upon my favorite producers and gather as big an array of whisk(e)y as the bar could hold. In the end I had a full 30 brands.
To compliment all the spirits, I went a little over on the bitters and sugar. In addition to Angostura, Peychaud's and Regan's, I brought 8 homemade bitters and tinctures. For sugar I had traditional cubes, Muscavodo, Rapadura, Agave Nectar, Lavender Honey and beautiful Japanese sugar that was light like confectioners sugar but tasted like cane.
I had this selection out front so guests would come up, I would hand them a glass and muddle and coach them through making and old-fashioned. We talked about the options and then I would cut ice chunks while they muddled and mixed. I went over pretty well if i do say so myself.
Someone should make this a permanent feature in a bar somewhere.