By Forest Collins
Though the Old Fashioned may seem like a simple combo of four components, variations are nearly endless and there is always room for contemplation and creativity within its confines of water, sweetener, spirit and bitters. To explore this idea more, we hit up Ben Cooper of the Paris-based Lulu White bar for his top five tops for an Old Fashioned.
Born and raised in Texas, Ben began tending bar once he moved to New York City to seek out a trade steeped in tradition, where he could appreciate the shared wisdom of a master and blend his work with creativity. Beginning as a back-barback with the Alta Marea group at their SoHo location, Osteria Morini, he moved through the ranks to barback to service bartender to bartender.
More recently, he’s moved to Paris with his wife where he enjoys the position of Head Bartender at Lulu White Drinking Club and serves great cocktails to the crowds that converge at this SoPi hotspot. Plus he’s currently hard at work with team putting together their new Blue Book Menu for July. Fortunately, even with this busy schedule, he found some time to share some knowledge with us.
Ben’s 5 Tips for an Old Fashioned
- Embrace your limitations. The simple, four-ingredient makeup is such that each component plays an extremely important role in the overall balance and profile of the drink. The fussy additions of liqueurs, rinses, smokes are lovely but superfluous. There is a beauty in simplicity, an elegance in understatement.
- …But enjoy exploring within your limitations. Spirit, sugar, bitters, water. The spirit is not limited to bourbon, nor the sugar to white table sugar … Añejo tequila with agave nectar and celery bitters? Scrumptious. Genever with honey and lavender bitters? Sublime.
- You get out what you put in. Go for quality products at all times, from the spirit to the sweet to the bitter to the water. Even the ice is a vital ingredient and accessing quality ice has never been easier.
- Don’t discount the garnish! Some have famously said that if you don’t have an orange peel, don’t make an Old Fashioned. I wouldn’t limit it to an orange, but the essential oils of the appropriate peel expressed over the drink make approaching the glass even more inviting.
- Let the old-fashioned work for you. It can certainly function as an aperitif, after dinner, breakfast, or night-cap cocktail. It can also function as an introduction to a spirit with which you aren’t yet acquainted. Don’t know if you like smokey whiskey? Try a smokey old fashioned.
Smokey Old Fashioned
- 45 ml Monkey Shoulder
- 1 barspoon (approx. 3ml) Honey
- 2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
- 1 dash chocolate bitters
Stir the honey, bitters, spirit together, before adding ice.
Add ice and stir until the drink and ice become one.
Express the oils of an orange peel all over the drink/glass