The bartender for Driftwood Craft Cocktails at Open House, Scarlett Hannon is an Old Fashioned kind of gal—but just because it’s her favorite drink doesn’t mean she has to play by all the rules to make it.
“A lot of people do an Old Fashioned the traditional way,” she says. “They stir in a sugar cube with bitters and a cherry, but I like them a little different. My Old Fashioned is done with a squeeze of house-made vanilla bean simple syrup.”
But that’s only the beginning, Hannon says, explaining that with a squeeze of fresh orange and a Luxardo cherry (the gold standard of maraschinos), she intentionally avoids getting lost in the Old Fashioned muddle.
“My thing with Old Fashioneds is to stir instead of muddle,” she says before offering a history lesson on her favorite drink.
“Traditionally, the Old Fashioned came out in the early part of the 20th century,” she says. “At that time, cocktails were made to mask the flavor of the alcohol, because liquor back then wasn’t lovely and delicious like it is now. So muddling the cherry and orange helped put fruit flavor over that bad alcohol taste. But now that we have such lovely bourbons and other whiskeys, we don’t want to cover over those flavors, but enhance them.”
There’s nothing too radical about the Vanilla Old Fashioned, Hannon readily admits—except its progressive agenda of flavors.
“You’ll get the richness and sweetness initially,” she says, “a little hint of vanilla and a little hint of the sweetness and freshness, a little of the citrus from the orange. And it finishes sweet, clean and dry.”
The squeeze of orange, she says, “rounds out the bourbon well. You’re not getting the crazy intense alcohol sting on the mouth you would get from a straight sipper. If you’re not a person that loves the straight spirits, it will work with you.”
The recipe: 2 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla simple syrup*, 1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
Pour ingredients into ice-filled Old Fashioned glass, sir - don't muddle - and top with a squeeze of orange. Garnish with orange peel.
*Bring to boil: 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, and "small handful" of vanilla beans. Allow to cool before use.