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By Harriet Leigh, Head of HospitalityISSUE #006 QUALITY AND CHARISMA | Education

A Case for the Gin Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned dates back to the times of fancy drinks, when bartenders started referring to themselves as Mixologists and things became complicated in the world of mixed drinks.

Some people rallied against the changing of the times. Just as vitriolic as the crowds at the Newport Folk Festival when Dylan plugged in his guitar, many railed against people messing with their libations. “I don’t want any of that fancy stuff, I just want mine served Old Fashioned”, they said. That meant pouring two fingers of whatever local hooch you had lying around and if need be, pimping it with some bitters and tempering its strength with a little sugar. But that’s as far as you needed to go.

For a very long time, American whiskey sat as the king of the Old Fashioned. You’ll never hear me suggest there is anything wrong with that. A slug of rye or bourbon on a large ice block with a sliver of zest for a hint of the exotic is both practical and purposeful. But sometimes you want to feel elegant. Sometimes you want to feel delicate. That is when life is telling you to order a gin Old Fashioned. If ever there was a spirit that called for stripping back and showing off in drinks it’s gin. It already has so much going on it doesn’t need things like tonic muddying the waters.

Now I know what you’re saying, I can hear you from here. You’re saying, “Surely that’s the time for a Martini”. And I understand you. It is almost always the time for a Martini. However the gin Old Fashioned is the Martini on a school night. Some people will drink a Martini on the rocks for when they want to slow their pace, or drink it wet. This is all well and good, but when you don’t want a watery glass of vermouth, it is time to drink a gin Old Fashioned.

I love gin. Not in a normal, “ooh I quite like a gin on a Friday evening” kind of way. I love gin in the sort of way that means I have to have rules such as “no gin before 5pm” (which was a rule laid down by my mother, I might add, always listen to your mother.) I love it because each gin is different. Each gin has personality screaming from its DNA. Australian gin in particular is something worth celebrating each day at 5pm. Sometimes I am in the mood for herbaceous and bright gin, so I pull out the Archie Rose Signature Dry, sometimes I feel the need for sturdier reinforcements and I find Distiller’s Strength (which just won double gold at the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, I might add) does the trick. Of course, if like today there is a new kid on the block then it would be rude not to indulge, hello Horisumi – Spring, you delectable young thing.

The Old Fashioned also lends itself to experimentation when it comes to service. With Spring I have played with a mandarin twist to great ovations in my mind. Every gin has a citrus or a herb that will give it a new lease on life. And what impresses a guest more than a weird fruit in their drink? Nothing, that’s what. If you want to impress your date and your bartender in one fell swoop, order a gin Old Fashioned. Dwell on each floral high note, languish in its cold embrace. Drink it without ever once mentioning Mad Men. I promise you won’t regret it.