(Yeah, that's what some people say, I suppose.)

If you enjoy quaffing that classic cocktail known as the Old Fashioned, and if you can get a bartender to make you a decent one, email me. I'd love to hear from people who (unlike me) seem to be able to order it in a bar and actually get something potable. So far seven of the last seven bartenders from whom I've ordered this drink have struck out.

I mean, really. What does it take to get a goddamned Old Fashioned anymore? Pardon me for swearing, but I'm fed up with the blank looks I get from bartenders when I ask for this. It's one of the most classic cocktails, and it couldn't be easier to make. Some of these people claimed to have gone to bartending school -- do you mean to tell me that bartending schools don't even mention this drink anymore?

I got one awful concoction at, oddly enough, one of my favorite restaurant/bars in downtown L.A. -- the bartender handed me this thing that sort of tasted like a giant Manhattan with too much sweet vermouth. I got one at another otherwise good restaurant/bar in Pasadena where the bartender diluted the drink with at least three ounces of soda water. NO NO NO!

It's easy, people. Sugar, bitters, muddle (with an orange slice if you have it), whiskey, ice, stir, plop in cherry. Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Fortunately, I make dynamite Old Fashioneds at home, so I don't fret too much about not getting them at bars. (I had good training -- this has always been my dad's drink of choice, and I'll give his version below.) I've been experimenting a little bit with bitters, and once when I didn't have an orange slice to muddle in the drink I thought about using orange bitters instead. It makes for a very interesting Old Fashioned, and I think I prefer it this way. For one more slightly New Orleanian touch, I'll add a dash of Peychaud's, too.

In a large old fashioned (or rocks) glass, add the sugar syrup and bitters. Muddle together a bit (particularly if you're using granulated sugar), then fill the glass with cracked ice. Add the whiskey, then stir the drink with a long bar spoon, twirling it so that not only are the ingredients mixed, but the ice melts a bit and adds a slight dilution to the drink. When the ice has melted very slightly and settled a bit, add a maraschino cherry for garnish and enjoy.

Remember that for chilled drinks calling for sugar, it's always better to use simple syrup than granulated sugar. It's already dissolved, and you won't get a gritty drink.

Charlie's Old Fashioned

For my dad's variation on this drink, use 3 ounces of Southern Comfort, 1 scant teaspoon sugar, and 2-3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters. Ice, stir, cherry, sip.

The Traditional Old Fashioned

For the good old fashioned Old Fashioned, muddle the orange slice with the sugar syrup. Don't muddle or crush the cherry -- that's just silly. Add the bitters, the ice, the whisky and stir. Garnish with the cherry, and another half-slice of orange if you like. If you put water or soda in this drink I swear to God I'll hunt you down and ... well, actually, I'll probably just send it back. ONE DOES NOT TOP OFF AN OLD FASHIONED WITH WATER OR SODA. That is simply wrong, and makes for a diluted drink.


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Chuck Taggart   email chuck (at) gumbopages (dot) com