Ok, did you see this? During this past Sunday’s episode of AMC’s Mad Men, the eternally-lowball-clutching Don Draper attends a Kentucky Derby party at the home of Roger Sterling and his twenty-something bride. Mint juleps not being his style, Don heads inside and gracefully hops over the polished wood bar to make himself—what else?—an Old Fashioned. While I intently watched the über-masculine, yet supple hands of Don Draper go through the familiar motions of crafting the classic drink, this throwback show suddenly felt oh-so-now.
With September’s Best New Bars issue (on stands now) fresh in my mind, I instantly recognized Don muddling a sugar cube into a pool of bitters. (Check out expert bartender Marcos Tello doing the same thing in our Sazerac step-by-step.) That long silver bar spoon Don twirled in his tumbler is identical to the one the folks at the Varnish and Rivera use to crack their ice and stir their drinks. At one point, Don searches in vain for bourbon, and ends up asking his drinking companion, “Is rye ok?” A) Rye is always ok. B) Both classic brown spirits are once again the centerpieces of today’s trendiest cocktails.
In a constant effort to feel one step closer to sharing a drink with Don Draper, I went to Eric Alperin, owner of the Varnish Bar in downtown L.A., and asked for an Old Fashioned recipe worthy of the king of 1960s New York advertising. Here’s what he gave me:
The Old Fashioned
1 White Sugar Cube
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
A barspoon of club soda
Muddle the above three ingredients in a 9 oz whiskey glass into a paste.
Add 2 oz Bourbon whiskey (The Varnish prefers Elijah Craig 12 year)
Add ice (At The Varnish we make our own ice blocks and chip them into the appropriate cubes. So for the Old Fashioned we use one large rocks cube)
Stir in the glass.
Spray and garnish with an Orange Peel
Light a smoke a la Don Draper, sip and enjoy…