At the end of last year, I published an article on the classic Old Fashioned cocktail. Right after that, an annoucement from Blanton’s stated that they were holding a contest to revisit this classic cocktail, with a trip to Kentucky for the winner.
I needed no more motivation and went to work.
In search for a context, I looked into the Kentucky Derby Classic that the Blanton’s cap takes it’s inspiration from. If you’re like me and don’t know anything about horses, it’s a horse race, held every year and is the first of the three known as the Triple Crown. Going on for more than a century, the name of one winner caught my attention “I’ll Have Another” because yeah, sounds like this horse’s named after a drink. Turns out it’s not.
The owner was talking about his wife’s cookies when he said “I’ll have another” and named the horse after those. Nevertheless, it won (the horse, not the cookie) the Derby in 2012, in an amazing manner, beating his follower by only 1 and a half length after starting from 19th position. First ever derby winner to start from there.
The whole race is the perfect, classic, comeback story. 7th position midrace, went all the way to finally win the race. He then proceeds to win the second race of the triple crown and line up to be the first horse in 40 years or so to win the Triple Crown. Sadly, an injury forces him to resign the day before the race.
Reading about this, it became an evidence that this horse diserved a drink named after him.
That being said, it’s not easy to change a classic. The old fashioned is a classic, because it just works…. Two ounces of whiskey, something sweet, something bitter. Voilà.
What I wanted to do then was to make each of the ingredient compliment the particular whiskey used in the cocktail (old fashioned usually being made with whisky from the bar well) this time the Gold edition by Blanton’s.
First thing opening the bottle and sniffing it. I remember exactly the first notes that I got on the nose, it was spicy, a bit woody, with a end of anise and liquorice. wanting to give power to those notes, i went with the easiest way which was to infuse the syrup I’d use for the sweet element.
That being decided, my choice was lemon balm and peppermint, two herbs giving a spike to the naturally present aromas in the whiskey. It allowed me to sweetened the drink, without taming the taste of the whiskey. The peppermint is a nice, fresh touch at the end of the taste that makes the drink a very suitable option for a summer day.
Recipe for the syrup is as follow:
- 200g canne sugar
- 250ml water
- 10g lemon balm
- 3g peppermint
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently, no boiling or evaporation whatsoever. When the mix is clear, add the herbs and stir. Put away from the fire and let it rest for 4-5 minutes, longer for a stronger but more bitter taste. You can use a coffee or tea filter to fine strain the syrup to achieve a clearer result.
Then the bitter.
I wanted here to keep a classic bitter but give it a wooden taste, and I went with infusing charred cedar sheets in a classic Angostura bitter.
Using a blowtorch, char some cooking cedar sheets and put those in the bitter in a mason jar or another sealed container. Wait to taste.
The charring makes a nice, long lasting burned taste that adds some length to your cocktail. That said, you can also try to infuse the bitters without charring the cedar wood, will just give some kind of “barrel aged” trait to it.
Finishing touch : Sanshô pepper.
I usually put an orange zest as my old fashioned garnish, but i wanted to go with something more in line with the Blanton’s gold. So i went with the rye, peppery side of this bourbon and chose to add some sanshô pepper, the japanese cousin to the more disitributed sechuan pepper.
One of the main difference is the tendency to lean towards more orange flavors than the citrus offered by the sechuan, and since I chose a summer harvest and not the spring one, the notes are closer to roasted/caramelized orange and citrus. It just adds so much to the nose it’s perfect. It’s really powerful though. Just a pinch is more than enough…. Also, beware of not biting it, it would numb your lips and seriously reduce the drink enjoyment even though it’s kinda fun 🙂
The entry for the competition was a video of the cocktail in the making so here’s mine (In French for the recipe) :