A century ago, had you walked into a bar and simply asked for an Old Fashioned, quite likely you’d have been answered with an inquisitive raise of the handlebar ‘tache. The very name of the cocktail we all know and recognise as the go-to tipple for serious whisky cocktail imbibers was purely an instruction for the silver fingered drink-smith in front of you: an ‘old fashioned’ being an abbreviation of a stiff drink fashioned in the ‘old way’; in other words a mix of chosen spirit, sugar and bitters with a touch of dilution from that cool ice stuff with any luck, just a splash of water if not. No further instruction or newfangled fruit would have been needed to complete one’s order… “Spirit, sir?”
Indeed, the bon vivants and sporting types of yesteryear would as likely have been sipping rich brandy or malty gin Old Fashioned Cocktails as they would have appreciating the familiar vanilla and spice nuances given by American whisky.
Today, for your convenience, the Confederation of Immortal Bartenders has duly agreed that the abbreviated and unspecified Old Fashioned is now globally recognised as a cocktail containing American whisky, sugar and bitters, served in a namesake stout tumbler, on the rocks, and with a zing of zest if one is feeling particularly fancy.
The CIB, despite being immortal and of a typically classical persuasion, has also conceded that in these creatively fast-paced modern times a select few bartenders – having first proved their mettle – are given a little leeway: the protocol can be relaxed somewhat to cater for their imaginative flourishes. Furthermore, due to the cocktails growing notoriety it shall no longer be confined to the postprandial hour.
Enter the Old Fashioned Supper Club, a most pleasing union of one of Kentucky’s finest (Woodford Reserve bourbon) and Hackney’s most elusive (The Disappearing Dining Club). Before the Dining Club performs its disappearing act, it will be popping up for a couple of short days under some Hoxton arches and serving a tasty feast inspired by Woodford’s home; centred around a mountain of melt-off-the-bone ribs, glazed with the aforementioned bourbon with smoked sweetcorn salsa and tortilla on the side.
Re-fashioned Old Fashioneds have been specially crafted to pair with the food. Drink-slinger Rich Woods from Duck & Waffle has confounded the CIB by doing secret things in the dark to his version: toasted hay and salted caramel popcorn are involved, although the precise formula remains between Rich and his rotovap.
Not to be outdone, 2012’s Best Name In The World winner Dorian Meillan from Whitechapel’s Discount Suit Company (who also dispense reasonably priced beverages) has brushed controversy aside by not using any form of bitters in his Old Fashioned, but rather a pinch of salt to contrast the sweet and floral notes of St. Germain elderflower liqueur and acacia honey. While raising the hackles of 19th century cocktailian puritans it delighted diners by complimenting the fennel and orange salad accompanying the beetroot cured salmon starter perfectly.
Completing the East End triptych, Josh Reynolds is no stranger to fine meat or whisky, working in the venerable institution that is Hawksmoor Spitalfields. His love of all things bittery inspired him to put forward a solid, straightforward mix of maple syrup and Fernet Branca, which rounded off the rich chocolate brownie, popcorn parfait and evening perfectly, and had the Confederation all curling their moustaches in approval.
Julian de Féral is an award-winning bartender-turned international drinks consultant and occasional raconteur.
The Old Fashioned Supper Club will start at 7pm on April 17th and 18th 2015, with the full address emailed to guests a week before. Priced at £45, diners can enjoy a taste of Americana on home ground, brought to you by Woodford Reserve. For more information or to book, visit www.disappearingdiningclub.co.uk.