Against seemingly insurmountable odds, the weather has finally cooled off in Central Florida (insert celebratory dance here). Granted, it was 80ºF and 90% humidity right through January 1st, but it seems as though summer has finally ended – or at least taken a few days off.
Like any good Central Floridians, as soon as the weather dipped below 60ºF, we dusted off our hooded sweatshirts and ran out to purchase several bundles of wood from the local Publix. Why, you might ask? Because if the temperature outside permits me to gestate on my patio without breaking a sweat means it means it's time to have a fire. What pairs well with a warm, crackling fire...? Any guesses?
Did you guess an Old Fashioned? Of course you did, because you have impeccable taste.
There are plenty of recipes for Old Fashioneds out there on the web, right now, just waiting for you to find them. I'm not going to claim that this recipe is the best way to make an Old Fashioned, or even the proper way to make one. Does it make a good drink for sipping by the fire? I mean, I think so. Try it out for yourself!
Sassafras & Sorghum Old Fashioned
Place your sugar cube in the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass (also called a lowball or rocks glass). Using a steady hand, dash bitters onto the cube until the cube appears to be saturated and takes on the color of your bitters. Add a splash of cold water to the glass. Muddle the sugar cube and bitters with a muddler or the flat end of a cocktail mixing spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved (you'll hear it stop crunching).
Now, fill a mixing glass with ice (this doesn't have to be fancy – a pint glass will do if that's what you have on hand). Pour your bourbon into the mixing glass and mix with your cocktail spoon for 20 seconds.
Place your large ice cube into your glass with the sugar/water/bitters mixture. Strain the bourbon you just mixed into your glass on top of the ice cube (don't wait too long to do this! You don't want your bourbon to start watering down). Add your maraschino cherry to the glass (bonus points if you bought the kind without the red dye, grand prize if you bought some fancy Luxardo cherries or something similar because damn they are good).
Now, here's where you have an opportunity to really give this drink a certain je ne sais quoi. Take your orange peel in one hand over your drink glass (I use my less dominant hand to hold the orange) and a lit match in the other hand. Hold the flame of the match near the orange peel to heat it slightly. Now, while still holding the match nearby, squeeze the orange peel from both ends so that it bows in the middle towards the flame and over the drink glass. If you've got a decent chunk of orange peel, this should create a nice little fireball effect* right there in your kitchen. If my explanation didn't cut it (no offense taken), check out this video.
Run the orange peel around the rim of your glass, and drop it into your drink. Kick back by the fire, raise your glass, sip slowly. Repeat.
*"Why the hell would I go to all the trouble of flaming an orange peel?" Good question. You certainly don't have to flame the orange peel for this drink! You can simply squeeze the peel, sans flame, over your drink and it will still impart your drink with some nice citrus oil. BUT! Flaming an orange peel: 1. is a pretty neat trick to do in front of your friends, and 2. the flame of the match slightly caramelizes the citrus oil before it hits your drink, subtly enhancing the flavor. Is it worth it? We think so.