But, at this stage, the closest I was going to get to Kentucky was a colonel burger, and I took it upon myself to find the best Old Fashioned in Joburg. By taste testing, of course. Luckily for me, the cocktail has become somewhat trendy of late, along with its younger Italian cousin, the Negroni. The trend has prompted Angostura Bitters to release an orange-flavoured bitters to imbue those much-needed subtle, citrus tones. And yet, who knew that swirling three ingredients in a glass could produce such varied results? I have encountered practically plain bourbon with a cherry in it to sheer perfection in a glass that I imagine comes packaged with a chorus of drunken singing angels. Conversely, I have even seen a peanut butter Old Fashioned on a menu, and would like to pretend that it does not exist.
However, bar-tending prowess aside, I have found that the key to finding one’s favourite Old Fashioned lies in the base alcohol element. Sure, bourbon is seen as the historical standard, but it’s quite fashionable on these Jozi streets to opt for gin’s main attention rival, rum. Not that there aren’t gin Old Fashioneds too — which, personally, taste like “no thank you”.
But if I were to give some tips so you may start your own Old Fashioned journey, I would say start with rum: it’s lighter and slightly fruitier, depending on who pours it. When it comes to bourbon, don’t let those fancy bars fool you: Wild Turkey is all you need, as it’s perfect for the mixing of flavours. I don’t know why anyone would want to mess with a good whisky, but go ahead if that’s your thing. But if you want to have a rare and wonderful experience? Go for rye. It has all the depth of bourbon, but seduces you with its fragrant, spicy aftertaste.
Follow McKeown’s ongoing Old Fashioned quest on her Instagram: @SylviaMck