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Editor's note: Robert O. Simonson is the author of "The Old Fashioned" and he writes about cocktails, spirits and bar culture for The New York Times as well as GQ, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Imbibe, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn, and Time Out New York.
The thing to keep in mind about the Old-Fashioned - and the reason this drink keeps people fascinated, satisfied and frequently argumentative - is that it’s not just a great cocktail but that it’s also the cocktail. That is, it follows to the letter the blueprint for a category of drink - spirit, bitters, water, sugar - that was established more than two centuries ago.
That recipe structure, while as sturdy as steel, also happens to be endlessly welcoming of interpretation, embracing spirits well beyond the de rigueur whiskey. In fact, for a short period of time in the late-19th-century and early 20th century, a number of old cocktail books treated the Old-Fashioned not as a single drink, but as a branch of cocktails. (Gin Old-Fashioned, Brandy Old-Fashioned, etc.)
Today’s mixologists approach the drink with much the same mix of reverence and imagination, perfecting their ultimate expression of the classic drink with one hand, while messing around with the model with the other. The profit of this twin-minded attitude is that many of today’s cocktail menus include a classic Old-Fashioned for the purists and, for the curious, an in-house version that switches out the base spirit, the sweetener, the bitters and sometimes all three.
So, it you ever find yourself growing tired of the same old Bourbon or Rye Old-Fashioned (why this would happen, we can’t fathom), there are options. Try giving one of these differently spiritous iterations a spin.
5 Old-Fashioned variations for every spirit: Robert O. Simonson
While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.
Gather around the punch bowl, a different kind of water cooler– September 20 is National Punch Day!
You can skip straight to the punchline today. Whether you like it spiked or as innocent as a high school homecoming, punch has been a catch-all beverage since the 1600s.
Originally, punch, known as "panch" in Hindi, "panj" in Persian or "panchan" in Sanskrit (all words meaning "five"), was made with alcohol, sugar, lemon juice, water and tea or spices. The British developed their popular Wassail, created around a wine or brandy base, but once Jamaican rum dropped on the scene circa 1655, modern punch was born. Naturally, today is also National Rum Punch Day.
Fruit punch was developed by soft drink manufacturers, although it doesn't have much to do with fruit in the first place. Different regions and cultures are famous for their own takes on punch, so try one of these 600 or one of the dozen vintage recipe in the gallery above.
We dare you to attempt Chatham Artillery Punch. According to Joe Odom, it's "seven parts liquor, three parts juice, whatever you have on hand on both counts." Drink up, and try to remember us in the morning.
Click through for 12 vintage punch recipes
For the past 25 years, the International Association of Culinary Professionals has celebrated excellence in the field of culinary publishing with the IACP Cookbook Awards. Behold the finalists for the 2011 honors.
2011 Cookbook Award Finalists
"The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern"
"The Winemaker Cooks"
"Fried Chicken & Champagne: A Romp Through the Kitchen at Pomegranate Bistro"
While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday and the most delicious finds on TV.
The December holidays are behind us, but so long as temperatures are dipping into single digits anywhere in the US, we're happy to keep taking our tipples on the warmed-up side. January 17 is National Hot Buttered Rum Day, and we humbly suggest celebrating with the recipe above, scanned from our 1941 edition of W.C. Whitfield's drink mixing masterpiece 'Here's How'.
Not in a rum state of mind, but still hot 'n' bothered over the notion of a steamy beverage? Pop some butter in your whiskey toddy. We surely won't tell.
What's on TV?