By Forest Collins
In our ongoing search for new knowledge on how to perfect and play with the classic Old Fashioned cocktail, we turned to Yoann Demeersseman. From his early days as a bartender in London’s Akbar Soho to his recently published cocktail book, Mon cours de cocktails – en 12 semaines chrono, (currently available in French), Yoann has filled his C.V. with some impressive cocktail cred and spirits skills. This consultant, trainer, writer and barman not only knows the classics like the back of his hand, but has a creative drive that has helped him establish a successful career in cocktail writing and spirits training.
Naturally, we listened closely when he shared his five tips for the perfect Old Fashioned:
1. Choose your favorite spirit: This is very important because when you are making an Old Fashioned, the key is to enhance the flavour of your base spirit. So it will be easier to start with the spirit you like and know very well. Learn as much as you can about your chosen spirit, as it will help you to choose the right sugar (for example, if you play with Jamaican rum use brown sugar or if you prefer American whiskey use caster sugar, Mezcal agave sugar and so on…) Which brings us to the next step:
2. Choose your sugar carefully: Why is this so important? Because it will greatly influence the flavours of the final drink. Use a classic technique: take an organic sugar cube and spend some time diluting it with a dash of seltzer water and, of course, a few dashes of aromatic bitters to make a perfectly aromatic, spicy syrup. To make sure it’s completely dissolved, don’t be shy about muddling it well with the seltzer and bitters until it’s a frothy texture, almost like a shaken drink. It takes time to build an Old Fashioned in this classic way, but the result is perfect. This is a drink appreciated by the purist. Don’t use a mixing glass, but, rather, build it all in the rocks glass in which you will serve it to keep all that flavour in the final drink. `
3. Pay attention to your method: When dissolving castor sugar in the classic way, it should be done in three stages. First, stir the sugar with a dash of bitters and 20 ml of the spirit. Once this begins to dissolve, repeat this twice. Side note: when using the more modern approach with sugar syrup rather than granulated sugar, use a separate mixing vessel instead of building it directly into your serving glass.
4. Consider your ice cube: For the Old Fashioned cocktail, ice is probably the most important ingredient, so be careful in your choice. Whether you use a classic or modern approach to mixing it, you will get further dilution with the ice. The desired amount of dilution will depend on your base spirit. So test out your ice in a mixing tin with a few stirs first to see how it’s mleting. A few turns and you should end up with 15, 20 or a max of 30 ml of water for the dilution. If your ice is too dry to achieve that, then add a dash of mineral water to it, wait a few minutes and then it is ready to mix!
5. Don’t forget the garnish: The last step is the garnish and this choice also depends on your base spirit. If using an American whiskey you’ll want to garnish with a lemon or orange twist. Rhum works well with orange oil, Cognac lemon oil, tequila with a lime zest. Play around with yours because, as you can see, there are many possibilities!