When we asked Boston's master of bartending ceremonies — Jackson Cannon, the suspender-sporting virtuoso behind the cocktail lists at Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and his loungy underground watering hole, the Hawthorne — to make Old Fashioneds with us, he didn't even blink. "I was born for this," he replied simply.
Allegedly, the name "Old Fashioned" was first uttered in the 1880s (good times, the 1880s), in a Kentucky gentlemen's club. I mention this to Cannon, and he nods. "Very few people remember that the end of the Civil War to 1900 was a golden age for American cocktails," he says. "That's when all the classics were created. After that, drinks became very flourish-oriented and really outlandish and stylistically afar from their conservative roots." Thus, when you just wanted a damn whiskey cocktail like they served in the old days, no fancy fruit or high-falutin' tricks, you asked for an Old Fashioned. "It's essentially four components: sugar, water, bitters, and spirit."
In present-day New York, Cannon explains, the default speakeasy-style Old Fashioned features only Angostura bitters and is finished with an orange zest. He goes for both Angostura and Peychaud's bitters instead, drawing on the Seville orange and fennel notes in the latter, and then activating it all with a lemon zest.
"It's a very sound architecture for a drink, and there are a myriad of variations," he says. "This Old Fashioned is just how I like to make them. . . . This is our version of the oldest of the old style."
HOW TO MAKE CANNON'S OLD FASHIONED
Step 1 Drop one sugar cube into a mixing glass, and pour a capful (.5 oz.) of Canada Dry club soda over it to dissolve.
Step 2 Add two dashes of Angostura bitters and two dashes of Peychaud's bitters.
Step 3 Muddle the sugar and bitters until it bubbles up and becomes a bitters simple syrup. Check mixture for sugar granules by pulling liquid up the side of the glass with a bar spoon.
Step 4 Add 2 oz. of Rittenhouse rye whiskey. Add ice and stir with the bar spoon until well mixed.
Step 5 Strain over fresh ice into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon zest.
THE HAWTHORNE'S FIRST ANNIVERSARY PARTY
It feels like we've been seeking refuge in the Hawthorne's comfy couches forever — which is why it blows our collective mind that they're celebrating their very first anniversary on November 21. Cannon and company are throwing a (classy) craft-cocktail rager that doubles as a fundraiser for Lovin' Spoonfuls, with featured menu items inspired by the people and places they're thankful for. In Cannon's words: "It's going to be dope." Nov 21, 6 to 9 pm :: $50 :: 500A Comm Ave, Boston :: 617.532.9150 or thehawthorne.eventbrite.com
Cassandra Landry can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org:: @eatdrinkwrite.