Monday, March 5, 2012

The Old Fashioned, and How to Make It

The Old Fashioned has come a long way in the past ten years. Until recently it was routinely manhandled by bartenders, with the requisite whiskey, water, sugar and bitters forced to cohabitate with muddled fruit and soda. Today, mixologists and cocktail historians have seen to it that the drink's austere, simple, original form has returned to the fore. But apparently the good work has not gone far enough for cocktailian layman nonpareil Martin Doudoroff. And so he came up with Old Fashioned 101, a doctrinaire one-page on-line primer on how to do the cocktail right. I must say I agree with him on almost every point. (Making ice "optional" is too hard core purist for even me.)

Here is my Times piece on the site. I hope it drove many viewers to the page.

A New Site for the Old-Fashioned
By Robert Simonson
What does it take to get a decent old-fashioned in this town?
After asking himself that question too many times, the cocktail autodidact Martin Doudoroff decided to do something about it. The result is Old Fashioned 101, a bare bones Web site in which he spells out in painstaking detail how to build what many historians and mixologists regard as the grandaddy of American mixed drinks.
“During the 20th century, various bad ideas encrusted the old-fashioned,” Mr. Doudoroff writes on the site, which went live on Monday. “Here we will strip off those barnacles to expose the amazingly simple and sublime drink beneath.”
Old Fashioned 101 is intended for professional bartenders and home drinkers alike, he said. “There are a lot of great drinks, but a properly made old-fashioned is as good as any of them. I’d go so far as to say that there is no mixed drink that is better. But nobody seems to know how to make them. And it’s really easy. I’m sick of having bad old-fashioneds.”
The Web site leads the thirsty student through six steps: Take a Glass (an Old Fashioned glass, of course); Add Sugar (no honey, maple syrup or molasses, please); Add Bitters (“When getting started with an old-fashioned, you should always use Angostura bitters”; experimentation with other aromatic bitters is allowed once you’ve mastered the Angostura); Add Spirits (rye or Bourbon); Add Ice; Add Twist (from a “fresh, firm good-looking lemon or orange”).
The author also tells what not to do. A few examples: “There is no slice of orange in an old-fashioned”; “There is no cherry in an old-fashioned”; “You do not mash up fruit of any kind in an old-fashioned”; “There is no seltzer, soda water, ginger ale, or lemon soda in an old-fashioned.” (Mr. Doudoroff is no partisan of the so-called “fruit salad” version of the cocktail that developed sometime in the mid-20th century and still dominates at many taverns, restaurants and supper clubs.)
Mr. Dourdoroff earns his living doing I.T. consulting and software development, but has been a cocktail enthusiast since the mid-1990s and is friendly with such leading cocktail figures as bartender Dale DeGroff and the Pegu Club owner Audrey Saunders. He has occasionally merged his software and mixed-drinks sides, resulting in such one-off projects as Vermouth 101, a Web site that arrived in 2010, and the Internet Cocktail Database, a collaboration with the drinks historian Ted Haigh that purports to do for cocktails what the Internet Movie Database did for movies.
“I’m on the education and evangelism side of things,” Mr. Dourdoroff said.
So where does a hanging judge of old-fashioneds go to get a decent specimen? Dutch Kills, Mr. Doudoroff said. At that Long Island cocktail bar, Elijah Craig 12-year-old Bourbon is the whiskey of choice, raw sugar is the sweetener, Angostura the bitters, and orange and lemon twists collaborate as the garnish.
“They do it right,” Mr. Doudoroff said. “It’s about thoughtfulness.”

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