How to Make Faster, Better Old Fashioneds
During its first year of business after opening in 2012, Eat Street Social in Minneapolis sold over 24,000 Old Fashioneds, and the bar continues to serve up lowball after lowball to this day. The drink’s not-so-secret ingredient is a trio of bitters created by Bittercube, which also launched the bar program at Eat Street. Simply referred to as Trinity Bitters on the menu, the threesome is comprised of the brand’s Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters, Bolivar bitters and Orange bitters. “Guests continued to ask where they could buy [the Trinity Bitters] and we told them they had to blend them,” says Nick Kosevich, founder of Bittercube. “And most people would say, ‘I’m never going to do that!’ So we finally listened to our guests and made our first blended batch of Trinity in 2016.” Now, home bartenders can make Eat Street’s celebrated Old Fashioned at home with as much speed and ease as the professionals. But aside from the pre-blended bitters (which are available for $22), there are a few more tricks of the trade. Here are Kosevich’s tips for making quick work of Old Fashioneds for a crowd.
Prep Lots of Good Ice
Kosevich likes to prepare his Old Fashioned with a giant hunk of ice. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have access to giant blocks from which to carve mini bergs. Instead, make ice in large silicone molds. The two-by-two-inch king cube molds may not make crystal clear ice, but they will make big cubes that won’t dilute the drinks too much. Be sure to make a few batches of ice ahead of time, collecting a bowlful of cubes so you are ready to go when the orders start coming in.
Make a Big Batch of Demerara Syrup (But Not Too Big)
Demerara syrup, made with light brown cane sugar, is richer than standard simple syrup and much better suited for a rich, stirred drink like an Old Fashioned. “Making demerara syrup is very easy to do,” Kosevich says. “Bring water to a boil and combine with an equal portion of demerara sugar. You can scale this up as large as you'd like, but remember you only need a quarter ounce in each Old Fashioned and house made syrups are best used within a few weeks.” So make only slightly more than you think you’ll need.
Use an OXO Graduated Jigger
Before you start free pouring your ingredients into a mixing glass, remember that correctly measuring out a drink is incredibly important and the only way to get a consistently good product—especially with something as simple as an Old Fashioned. “Making cocktails is more like baking a cake than cooking a dish,” Kosevich says. For the fastest and most accurate pours, he recommends one particular jigger. “The best jigger, the only jigger we use is this OXO graduated jigger,” Kosevich says. “It's the easiest way for new bartenders and home consumers to make sure their ratios are correct.” For big batched Old Fashioneds, he recommends using the Anchor Hocking measuring cup and simply multiplying your recipes by a factor of eight.
Store Your Citrus Zest Garnish Correctly
If you want to make the best Old Fashioned you have to zest your citrus garnishes to order. But for fast and nearly perfect drinks, you can prepare your orange swaths ahead of time, as long as you store them correctly. “Lay them between damp paper towels so they stay fresh,” Kosevich says. He also stresses using a Y-peeler (correctly) to zest oranges. “Hold the Y-peeler with an index on the side, applying pressure to the fruit and not the peeler,” he explains. Then zest away.
Memorize One Simple Formula
If you want to make a bunch of Old Fashioneds quickly, you can’t keep referencing a recipe. Luckily, this is an easy drink to memorize. Just remember: one quarter, two, two. That means, one quarter ounce demerara syrup, two ounces whiskey (Eat Street Social uses bourbon) and two doppers of bitters. Add your ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold. Strain into a glass over a fresh, giant cube, and you are a pro host.