I may be from the South, but I never was a bourbon drinker. Actually, I don’t drink a lot of liquor because I’m a relative lightweight when it comes to alcohol. I’m a sipper — a serial sipper, and if I get drunk too fast, then I have to stop drinking long before everyone else does. I will then start to demand to go home because I’ll be getting sleepy and also why continue to stay out when you could be at home in your pajamas?
And you know, that’s annoying.
However, a few years ago after Christmas, I began to go through eggnog withdrawal. I started searching for other recipes like the Tom and Jerry or the flip, sort of ur-nogs. After trying them, I realized that what I liked about eggnog wasn’t the nutmeggy milkiness I expected, but the bourbon — which was missing in the drinks I'd found.
With that realization, I became a convert. Much to the astonishment of my husband, who thinks bourbon is moderately vile (although he drinks his share of eggnog) and unnecessary. From his perspective, throughout most of our marriage I've been a person who didn't drink brown liquors, and now, without warning, I’ve become a bourbon drinker. He sees it as an affectation, I think.
More (plus a recipe) after the jump.
I went back to using Duke’s mayonnaise last year (I always thought it was a trashy brand growing up and immediately began buying Hellman’s when I went to college) because when I was forced to go gluten-free, I thought I tasted something unpleasant in our usual mayo (the gluten-free bread was bad enough without the indignity of crap mayo). Plus, I got an itty bitty jar of Duke’s at an event they were doing, and let me just say right here, I’m a sucker for a product that looks exactly like the normal one except that it’s three or four times smaller. Or five or six.
So, I think my husband believes that I’m deviating wildly out of character in order to be even more Southern than I already am. Which is bizarre.Seriously, let’s put the birth certificate aside for a minute and consider that I haven’t started eto eat okra (I don’t even like it fried) or head cheese or pig’s ears (for God’s sake) or started downing glasses of buttermilk to establish my Southern cred. THERE ARE LIMITS.
At any rate, I needed a way to drink my bourbon other than straight from the bottle (figuratively: I actually use a glass). I set about trying different cocktails to find the one I liked best.
I loved the very first one I came across, the Old Fashioned, and as a creature of (dangerously rigid) habit(s), I haven’t bothered to try any of the others because I really, really like this one.
It’s just fussy enough to make whipping up a cocktail a special occasion. Sugar cubes are involved, and napkins, and muddling. I can’t remember where I found the original recipe, but it doesn’t really matter, they’re all much the same except for one crucial difference.
The real divide among Old-Fashioned drinkers, I found, is between the maraschino-cherry advocates and the over-my-dead-body-will-you-put-that-toxic-crap-in-my-cocktail fanatics. I belong to the former camp. They say (at least the kids while I was growing up who always seemed to have these kinds of facts at their fingertips said) that those cherries stick around in your digestive system for months at a time, but I was not and am not deterred. I LOVE maraschino cherries.
When I decided to make my first drink, I was at a fancy food store and they didn’t have Angostura bitters, but they did have blood orange bitters. A few days and a few cocktails later, I ran out of regular oranges (actually, I ran out of clementines — those little suckers are impossible to keep around my house), so it made sense to buy blood oranges to match the bitters instead (and to keep the children away from the fruit). It was this last addition that tipped my cocktail from a very good drink to why-is-my-glass-empty status.
The Blood Orange Old Fashioned
2 ounces of bourbon (my taste has slowly gotten more expensive; I suggest you don’t even get started with the good stuff)
1 sugar cube
Dash of blood orange bitters (I bought those made by Stirrings and will be drinking them for the rest of my life, if the size of the bottle is any indication)
1/2 slice of blood orange
1 maraschino cherry
Place a napkin over your glass and put the sugar cube on top of it. Dribble (Stirrings bitters don’t come with the plastic shake-cap, a little device that would be very helpful when making cocktails) the bitters (I use a spoon and suggest you do to unless you REALLY like the taste of bitters) over the sugar cube, just until it’s saturated. Tip the sugar cube into the glass.
If you have a fancy muddler, now is the time to pull it out, but if you don’t (and seriously, who does?), take a spoon and smash the sugar cube with the back of it. Throw in the cherry and smash that, too. Add the blood orange slice and press down on it until it combines with the cherry. Then stir, stir, stir until the sugar seems mostly dissolved.
Add the bourbon, and stir, stir, stir again until you know the sugar is dissolved.
Add ice cubes.
Optional, if you don’t mind some fanaticism: I recommend two square ice cubes. The regular, crescent-like cubes your freezer makes don’t taste the same and will change the experience of your cocktail, and it will be none the better for it. Tiny ice cubes will dilute the bourbon too quickly. People talk about one large ice cube, but those things unexpectedly slide when you tip your glass to take a sip and smash you in the lip, especially the round ones. Medium-sized, square ice cubes are the ticket.
Swirl your drink (knowingly — you now have in-depth knowledge about ice cubes) to chill it and then sip. Repeat.
To be perfectly honest, after I wrote this, I gave up bourbon for the time being. Different alcohol causes different effects, and I think the effect bourbon has on me can best be described as "unhelpful." The other night, while drinking this lovely cocktail, I ran into the bathroom and smashed my husband with the bathroom door right into the shower that he was poised to step into. He wasn't very happy about that. And instead of apologizing, I laughed. And refused to apologize, despite the fact that the door was shut and that implies that the entrance is therefore barred for a reason. The next day, I realized that perhaps I wanted to avoid a future as a bourbon-drinking single mother who has bathroom doors without naked men innocently adjusting the water temperature behind them.