Visit the new home of Old Fashioned Week at Woodford Reserve

5 Tips from Simon Dacey of Trailer Happiness, London

By Laurence Marot 

I’ve been professionally bartending for around 2 years now, after dropping out of uni because I found the bar I was running out of my flat to be more fun than my Chemistry degree.

I’ve since been lucky enough to work in some of London’s most highly commended spirit-specialist bars, including Merchant House, Black Parrot, and now Trailer Happiness. Through these experiences and various events across the world I’ve developed an acute love for spirits, especially rum.

5 tips for an Old Fashioned

  1. Quality ingredients

As with any good cocktail, your drink is only as strong as it’s weakest ingredient. A bottom of the shelf spirit will be very difficult if not impossible to use in a wonderful cocktail, so ensure you’re only using products you have the confidence to drink neat. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to use expensive and unusual bottles to make drinks; as long as the rest of the ingredients match up in quality it will be the best cocktail of your life. Just maybe avoid muddled cherries in your 50 year old Scotch! Oh, and bin your simple syrup. You don’t need it for a top-notch Old Fashioned.

  1. Take your time

A lot of bartenders with backgrounds in high volume bars will be used to churning out several drinks at once in a mixing glass, and while this is efficient in a time-pressured environment, it sacrifices the overall quality. In my experience the best Old Fashioneds are made in the glass they are to be served in, slowly being built and stirred until almost ready. The extra dilution from time sat on the ice will alter the drink’s profile as it is drunk, and by the end your guest will be eager for another.

  1. 2 Orange Zests

The light fragrance of orange oil over an Old Fashioned is the perfect finishing touch, but these oils can also bind the sugar and the spirit wonderfully in the body of the beverage. I tend to muddle the sugar into one zest, build the drink, then garnish with a second, giving the guest the best of both worlds.

  1. Let the spirit sing

This relates to point 1, in that it’s very easy to drown a delicate spirit in sugar and bitters. I was certainly guilty of this at Merchant House, taking the extensive bitters range as a challenge rather than a toolkit! The Old Fashioned should demonstrate the best qualities of your chosen spirit, so be sparing with your other ingredients, and remember you can always add to a drink, but never take away.

  1. Make it personal

The most wonderful thing about the Old Fashioned is its versatility; there are countless bitters and even more spirits out there waiting to be explored. One of the best Old Fashioneds I ever had was made with vodka, so don’t feel tied to aged spirits for the sake of “tradition”, experiments drive evolution so don’t be afraid to rock the boat in the quest for your perfect drink!

Simon’s recipe of an old fashioned

– 50 ml Havana

– 1 barspoon rapadura (panela) sugar

– 4 dashes Angostura Bitters

– 2 orange zests

In the bottom of a large rocks glass, gently muddle together one orange zest, the bitters and sugar. Add an ice cube amd stir until a syrup forms.

Incrementally add small amounts of rum and ice, stirring and tasting regularly for dilution. The more ice you add, the slower the dilution, so when the part-made drink just about hits perfection, throw in some more spirit and ice. I normally add the rum in 3 measures.

Once all the rum has been added and the drink is nearly perfect, top off the glass with ice. Express a second orange zest over the drink and place it in the glass.

Find the comfiest chair you can, sit back, and enjoy!

Thank you!

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