This is a posting of an article that I wrote a year ago for a group that I belong to of gardeners. I’m reposting it here to my blog . . .
Homemade Sugar Cubes, Homemade Cocktail Cherries, & the Old-Fashioned Cocktail, (or, as I like to call my version of the drink, The Abomination)
The Old-Fashioned Cocktail is, according to Robert Simonson in his book, The Old-Fashioned, (yes, it’s a whole book about this one drink) 2014, Ten Speed Press,
“ . . . you have a drink that very closely matches the original definition of the word ‘cocktail’, period. The earliest known printed definition of the word appeared in the newspaper the Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806: ‘A stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.’ That formula is precisely what lies at the heart of the Old-Fashioned, bourbon or rye being the spirit and Angostura the preferred bitters.”
In his book, Mr. Simonson also discusses, at length, what he calls the Old-Fashioned “fruit wars”, the ongoing debate about the inclusion of cherries, oranges, pineapple, lemons etc., in an Old-Fashioned cocktail between purists and those prone to frippery.
Turns out, I am a big fan of good old-fashioned frippery (I had to look up a lot of words reading Mr. Simonson’s book, frippery being one of them, and now I’m trying to use it enough times to have the word become a part of my vocabulary) when it comes to this drink, making me solidly in the Fruit Salad Old-Fashioned camp in the debate. That said, if you want to be a purist, and you will get no judgment from me, know that the purist form of an old-fashioned is not a drink for the gardening mixologist because it is simply; a sugar cube doused with a few dashes of Bitters and muddled ‘til syrupy and topped with 2 – 3 ounces of bourbon (or rye) and ice. Stirred 30 seconds and garnished with a citrus peel, usually lemon. Not a lot of room for the gardener to participate without the addition of the fruit salad versions. Hence why I call my version of the Old-Fashioned “The Abomination” because I want to put garden produce and homegrown goodness into a drink that the cocktail purists call an abomination.
The Abomination (Old-Fashioned)
Makes one drink.
2 – 3 ounces Bourbon, Rye or blended Whiskey of choice
1 – 2 sugar cubes, to taste
Several healthy dashes of Bitters, Homemade or Angostura
2 strips of orange zest plus 2 orange slices
2 strips of lemon zest plus 2 lemon slices
2 Homemade brandied cherries (or more), recipe follows
Into the bottom of a heavy bottomed low tumbler (this glass is known as an Old-Fashioned glass because of this drink) put one or two sugar cubes.
(Did you know you can make sugar cubes? Well you can, google it for the wide, wonderful world of sugar cube making if you like falling down crafting rabbit holes on the internet.
Homemade Sugar Cubes
Sugar cubes are simply lightly moistened sugar that is packed, usually into a mold, and dried. I’ve made sugar cubes and I’ve bought sugar cubes – they both work!)
To make the drink: Douse the sugar cubes with Bitters and add one piece of orange zest, one piece of lemon zest, one orange slice and one lemon slice and one cocktail cherry. Using a muddler or the handle end of a stout wooden spoon, muddle the fruit, bitters and sugar together to a sloppy syrup dissolving the sugar. The cherry pit will probably pop out and can be removed if you wish. Add the Bourbon and ice and stir to chill. Garnish with the remaining peels and citrus slices and cherries. I serve with a spoon to eat the fruit salad when I’m done drinking the cocktail!
Homemade Cocktail (Brandied) Cherries
I rely on a recipe by Amanda Schuster from Alcoholprofessor.com that I augment with the addition of a vanilla bean and bay leaves.
Note: I can’t grow cherries in my climate so I look for cherries in season with long stems at the farmers’ market because I leave the stems on, they act as handles and look fetching in a drink, and I leave the stones in! Yes! I do not pit my cocktail cherries. Have you tried olives cured with the stone left in and compared the flavor to a pitted olive? There is a big difference! Well, the same is true with cherries in this case. The cherry pits add a nutty essence to the end product that is outstanding, something that you do not get, even with the addition of almond extract, when using pitted cherries. However, if the stems and pits bother you, then by all means remove them.
1 pound of fresh cherries, any kind. (Each variety of cherry will make a different end product but they are all good so use what you grow or can get)
1 cup of good quality Brandy
½ cup filtered water
½ cup sugar, I use organic
1 stick cinnamon
Grated fresh nutmeg
1 or 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 vanilla bean plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay and vanilla bean on low heat for several minutes until sugar is dissolved and becomes a bit syrupy. Remove from heat. Add the cherries and coat well with the syrup. Add the booze and vanilla extract and stir to coat. Let cool. Carefully transfer the cherries, then the boozy syrup to a glass jar, turn it over a couple of times for good measure, then store in refrigerator. Ideally, let them steep at least overnight before use. These will last several months to a year. Use the cherry brandy liqueur in drinks, as well as, the cherries. These cherries make great gifts!