It’s high time we lit a fire — long winter nights spent dancing by the flames just hit different. Tonight, we’re drinking Old Fashioneds (obviously); so, pop a log on and sit yourself down.
The humble Old Fashioned is versatile, with boundless potential for tasty riffs — that’s just one thing we adore about the daddy of all whiskey cocktails. Today’s cocktail of the week hails from Pomeroy Kananaskis Lodge’s Blacktail Bar and gives the classic a solid fireside twist. And oh, baby, it’s delicious!
Blacktail Bar’s master bartender, Beau McQueen, draws inspiration from the ever nostalgic and beloved s’mores treat. He builds the experience by injecting key flavours with a dash of excitement. Honey and cinnamon syrup teases the all-important Graham cracker sandwich, with a light smoke infusion bringing toasted biscuit notes. McQueen’s artful blend of three whiskies: two “traditional” bourbons and a notable fleck of Scotch, serves roasted-marshmallow sweetness with a deliciously boozey kick. The Maker’s Mark makes for a solid base, with Basil Hayden’s Toast bringing subtle char, and the Auchentoshan Three Wood adding toffee and fruit complexity. Just personal preference, but any scotch finished in a Pedro Ximenez Sherry cask has my heart. Swoon.
Firesides are great for two things, in my opinion: stories and a little theatre. The latter comes from the hands-on serve, with a torched marshmallow garnish and a smoked glass (classic!). And the story portion — well, now that you have yourself a mighty fine drink, let’s have a little chat about the history of the Old Fashioned, shall we?
Here, we find ourselves taking a little delve into the O.G definition of a “cocktail.” The word made its first print appearance on the page of an upstate New York newspaper. Described as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters”, an Old Fashioned is — quite literally — the O.G mixed drink. The phrase “old fashioned” was first applied to a gin-based cocktail by our boy Jerry Thomas in his 1862 Bartender’s Guide; in later years, though, the serve became more heavily associated with whiskey, with bourbon as the chosen base spirit.
The Pendennis Club of Louisville, Kentucky, is the original claimant of the Old Fashioned with a recipe dating back to 1880. We kind of want to let them have it, seeing as Louisville is the birthplace of bourbon and all. In reality, though, whisky, sugar, water, and bitters has been stirred down and served over ice for years. Either way, an orange peel was introduced, which was somewhat of a gamechanger for the sip. Later, this evolved into a mandatory maraschino cherry. (We love adding a bar spoon of cherry syrup from the jar, too!)
So, to sugar cube or not to sugar cube? Look, we say no, but that’s only because we think drinking should, y’know… feel good. Some bartenders will insist on making an Old Fashioned with a bitters-soaked brown sugar cube but — while many will agree that brown sugar is the superior sweetener — a sugar cube doesn’t make for a consistent dilution or smooth mouthfeel. Many wise modern bartenders (like McQueen) opt for a syrup instead.
For a short time, the good ‘ol Old Fashioned slipped out of vogue. We get it; the 80s were a wild era. There were loads of dry ice, Midori, and blue curaço to be throwing around with reckless abandon. These days, it looks like the historic serve is back and here to stay as a cocktail menu staple, with many imbibers revering it for its balance and simplicity. That’s the beauty of a classic; we already know it works, so a little tasty tweak here and there can yield a true hit!
Okay, enough talking, more gazing lovingly into the fire and getting cozy with our S’Mores Old Fashioned; see you in Kananaskis!