Here it is, guys. I’ve come up with the perfect Turkey Day tipple. Old school meets new. Wood smoke and agave meets bright citrus and tart cranberries. Put everything else away for another day. This is what you’re drinking on Thanksgiving.
If you’re a whisk(e)y and classic cocktail enthusiast, like myself, the Old Fashioned is tops. Said to be one of the first cocktail recipes on record, and the very definition of “cocktail” – spirits, bitters, water and sugar. (This first documentation of a “cocktail” in 1806 is attributed to an editor’s response to a reader’s query asking to define “cocktail” in a local newspaper in upstate New York.) An Old Fashioned is simple, strong, and to be enjoyed slowly and preferably while luxuriating in front of a raging fire…with a golden retriever nearby. It’s a masculine drink. It’s Don Draper’s drink. It’s also usually made with whiskey.
The Old Fashioned recipe is rumored to have had many incarnations, however. Some involve liqueurs like orange curaçao, and others involve the muddling of many curious fruits, but most often oranges and cherries. But, rye whiskey was the most popular base spirit in the 1800s. Therefore, our current classic-cocktail-revival-landscape dictates that it is usually rye or bourbon used in Old Fashioned cocktails nowadays. But…sometimes it’s fun to mix it up!
I’ve been looking to use the fairly new to market Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila in a cocktail for a while now. This tequila wants to be a whiskey. In order to reflect distinct whiskey qualities, this tequila is uniquely aged in traditional American Oak barrels for 12 months before being transferred into two separate, and specially toasted barrels for an additional 6 months. That time in the heavily charred and toasted oak barrels really imparts the color and qualities one would associate with a whiskey, but Hornitos Black Barrel is still very much a tequila. I enjoyed this on its own so much more than I thought I would. The black pepper, agave and oak works really well together.
For the sweet element of this version of an Old Fashioned, I used the Original Strong Tonic Syrup. This syrup is actually a perfect match for tequila, since agave nectar, in addition to cane syrup, is their sweetener.*
German based company, The Bitter Truth makes an amazing Creole Bitters. Cherry red in color, this bitters has distinct dried fruit and floral notes, with a hint of anise and spice. And cranberries! It has cranberries in it! Also, how pretty is that bottle?**
Cranberry Añejo Old Fashioned
2 oz Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila
3/4 oz Original Strong Tonic Syrup*
3 dashes The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters**
Splash Club Soda
To Muddle: 1 large mandarin peel and 4-5 fresh cranberries
Garnish: 3 mandarin wedges and 3-4 fresh cranberries
Add the mandarin peel, cranberries, bitters and syrup to a mixing glass. Muddle well. Add the tequila and splash of club soda and fill with ice. Stir mixture until well chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned or rocks glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries and mandarin wedges.
* If you’re unable to find Strong Tonic where you are, you can substitute 1/2 oz maple syrup or agave nectar.
** If you’re unable to find The Bitter Truth Creole Bitters where you are, you can use Peychaud’s Bitters or another aromatic bitters.