Suburban

This isn’t an ad for Chevy, this is a bad thing to combine with driving. It’s a great thing to combine with a perfect evening, though. The Suburban is the very definition of a cocktail: every ingredient is booze, it’s served straight, and it makes you come back for seconds. We’re treading into the proper cocktail territory with this one. In fact, this is the direction that Oak & Grain is heading. Not that we’re abandoning Sours or Honey Ryes. Far from it. We’re just ramping up the style a bit, but I promise we won’t break the bank.

Like the Tombstone, this recipe is based on overproof or “bonded” Rye. Rittenhouse 100 comes back as the main act. I got this recipe from a menu of a really good bar in the East Village. If you went there and asked for a Suburban, they’d shake you up a really good one. You’d be impressed at the finesse of the bartender, and the care they took to craft you a stiff drink. Then you’d fork over $18. Don’t get me wrong, it would be worth it, but we can make it at home for a fraction, and it’s just as delicious. It’s all in the technique:

Suburban

  • 1.5 oz of Rittenhouse 100
  • 1/2 oz of dark rum
  • 1/2 oz of ruby port
  • 1 dash of orange bitters
  • 1 dash of Angostura

Dash the bitters over ice in a shaker. Pour your liquors on top. Shake well, strain and serve into a chilled cocktail glass.

Notes on execution:

Since this recipe is relatively straightforward, the most crucial part is getting your cocktail routine down. When I say “cocktail” I’m referring to the bartender’s pedantic definition of what qualifies as a cocktail. A “vodka and Red Bull” is not a cocktail, it’s a disaster, and also a ‘mixed drink’. A Suburban is a cocktail because it consists of “spirits, sugar, water, and bitters”. Well, there’s no sugar, but it doesn’t contain anything more than that list. When you are preparing a cocktail that is shaken and strained, there’s a few steps in the process, and an order in which you do things, in order to produce the most satisfying drink. It’s simple, and here’s how to do it:

Step one: chill the cocktail glasses. This is done by placing ice and water into the glasses before you prep the rest of the drink. This will lower the temperature of the glass, therefore keeping the drink colder, longer.

Step two: Place ice in the shaker.

Step three: Bitters go in first. The reasons for this seem more religious than rational, but I think the physics at work has something to do with how little bitters there are in a drink.

Step four: Your secondary spirits and ingredients go in second. This is your syrups, liqueurs, and smaller liquors. Here’s where you put in the port and rum.

Step five: Your main spirit goes in last, in this case the Rittenhouse.

Step six: Seal the shaker, and shake vigorously for at least ten seconds to ensure the drink has combined well, the liquors have chilled, and a bit of ice has melted to smooth the taste.

Step seven: Dump out the ice water from the cocktail glasses. Strain the cocktail into the vessels that wait. Serve.

This template will apply to pretty much any real cocktail you prepare straight. If you’ve been playing along at home, you already have the Rittenhouse 100, the Angostura, and the orange bitters. Any ruby port will do, I picked up a bottle for $12 only because the $10 bottles were out. Dark rum can vary in price, but is typically around the same as the wine. In a pinch, you can use spiced rum, but you’ll probably like the recipe better as it is written. Prost!

Photo credits go to M.

Old Fashioned

Now that we’ve seen Whiskey’s sweet side with the Honey Rye, it’s time to tread into deeper waters. I’ve got your floaties.

The Old Fashioned should be a familiar cocktail for all Whiskey drinkers. Even if you’re not, or you’re a new convert, you may know what an Old Fashioned is, or you’ve seen Don Draper drink one. However, Don Draper is a teenager compared to the age of this drink. Most associate these cocktails with the 1960s, or American Prohibition, or their grandpa. In fact, the Old Fashioned can trace its origins to the 1880s. Indeed the Martini, the Manhattan, the Sazerac, Tom Collins and many other drinks that get associated with the mid-20th century were all born in the late 19th century. They had been around for 60, 70, or sometimes 80 years by that time. The name “Old Fashioned” likely referred to a patron demanding from the bartender an “old fashioned cocktail, like they used to make ‘em.” This guy is my otherkin.

The last thing I want to do with this blog is to sound pretentious or scare away new converts. I’m not going to lie to you: the Old Fashioned is strong and bitter, but in a good way. Whiskey wears a lot of hats, and if you are just learning to appreciate Whiskey this is a good trial by fire. Fortunately, you’re able to adjust this recipe to your taste. Too bitter? Add more sugar. Got a favorite brand of Whiskey? Use it. Too strong? Seltzer is your friend. This cocktail requires very little tools, and just a few moments of your time. Here we go:

Old Fashioned

  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • Splash of water
  • 2 oz of Whiskey
  • Orange

Your old fashioned glass returns. In this case, I do suggest you stick with a short glass and don’t use a tall one. In the glass, place a teaspoon of sugar, 3 dashes of bitters, and a splash of water (explained later). Stir this until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Place an orange wedge in the bottom, and muddle. Drop in 3 large ice cubes, and pour in 2 oz of Whiskey. Stir briefly and serve.

Notes on execution:

What I like to do is take a small spoon and use that to measure my sugar amount. A dash of bitters, empirically, is one quarter teaspoon. A dash of bitters, realistically, is whatever comes out when you turn the bottle upside down and give it a shake. This assumes you have a dasher top on your bitters, which you likely have. Angostura is fine, but a specialty is worth trying. I’m using Fee Brothers again, this time their Aztec Chocolate Bitters, which is great with orange!

A splash of water is more subjective, but empirically it’s “one thirty-second of an ounce” as in 1/32. So it’s really small. Pour water in for as long as you can say “one”. Don’t even go to “Mississippi”.

You won’t be able to dissolve all the sugar. That’s desired, and important for later. When the drink is finished, traditionally you leave a small spoon in the glass for the drinker to mix later as per their preference. You can sub in a stir stick or leave it out, but if you leave it in you feel fancy. Once the sugar is dissolved, drop in the orange wedge and muddle. Muddling is the act of smashing except more graceful sounding. You can buy a muddler for this, which I strongly encourage, but if you do not have one you may use the back of a spoon, a wine cork, or anything really. The trick is to crush the flesh of the orange and to avoid pressing on the pith and rind too much. The pith contains a lot of bitter oils and this drink already has bitters in it. You add any more and the drink will start resenting you.

Your Whiskey choice is entirely up to you. In this case, I made my drink with Glenfiddich 12 yr single malt Scotch. This is a recent discovery to me, single malts actually play really nicely with these ingredients. You may put whatever you want into this: Bourbon, Rye (traditional), Irish Whiskey, Blended Scotch, your choice. If you like it in other drinks, it likely works well in an Old Fashioned. A fair warning though: if it comes in a plastic bottle, or its first name is Jack, don’t do it. You will regret it, and I can sense when a bad Old Fashioned is mixed. I have not tried it with Irish Whiskey, either, so you’re on your own in that department.

You can make this drink more sweet by adding more sugar. If it’s still too strong, top it with seltzer to cut it. The wonderful thing about this drink, though, is as the ice melts, the flavors really come out. The first sip is always the strongest. By the time you’re halfway through, you start to realize why this drink survived for nearly 150 years. Nothing to do with blood sacrifices.

What about garnish? Tradition states a maraschino cherry, or even a flag (cherry + orange slice + toothpick). Who has a cherry jar on hand at all times? Most don’t, and to be frank they’re not a very appropriate garnish. Who wants HFCS in their drink? You’re a blooming bartender, why not try making them yourself? In the meantime, leave it out.

Now you have a dyed-in-the-wool Whiskey fixture. A cool party trick with this one is to drink it and watch your friends cringe. It’s okay, they’re merely potential converts. You know the secret of the Good Stuff. Cheers.

My wonderful photographer, M, was occupied this day, so I had to photograph things myself.