The old fashioned is having a renaissance of sorts. At least that's the hope of Frank Blanton and his wife, Nancy, who write me about their two-year search for the cocktail done right in Richmond.
In no small part that's because of "Mad Men," which kicked off its season the other week with a flurry of booze, booze and some more booze.
Problem is, Blanton's getting a blank look from a few bartenders around town, he says: "Like a deer in the headlights wondering, 'Who drinks this these days?'" One bar had no oranges. Another didn't stock bitters. At a Short Pump chain the bartender had to consult a recipe book. "God's teeth!" Blanton writes. "Is this such an 'Old Fashioned' cocktail?"
Blanton rightfully turns to me for guidance. Now you might not surmise that the folks hunkered down at Style Weekly are dashing, suave or even remotely stylish or hip, but in fact we are all of those things. Our offices are very much like Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce in that we are very — very — in the know. The constant lying and drinking add to the overall effect.
Perhaps no one's ever mistaken Arts and Culture Editor Don Harrison for a Madison Avenue ad exec, but many would be surprised to know that he only wears three-piece suits a la Roger Sterling. And while we're not sure if he actually does any work, he's kept around for his acid tongue and scene-stealing one-liners. His corner of the office is nothing but a cloud of secondhand smoke and Aqua Velva. His eight-martini lunches are legendary within the Richmond media community.
Then you have Editor in Chief Jason Roop stalking around thinking he's the office Don Draper. Scowling, looking like he's about to walk through a wall at all times, having inter-office liaisons, blowing everyone's mind with every comment he drops in every meeting. The only differences are that none of these things is true of Roop and no one laughs at Don Draper.
But I digress.
Style's overwhelmingly retro-cool fashion sense and closet drinking habits aren't on trial here. What is on trial is your drinking habit, or lack of one.
I've harped on why you should drink up in this space before, and I don't mean that you should drink more, although I'm not one to judge. Drinking up means to drink quality, a real cocktail. Take a cue from the Blantons. Put down the fucking Red Bull and don't you dare put cranberry juice within 10 miles of that cocktail. What is it, your period?
And so if the old fashioned and its brethren are alive anywhere in this town, it's with fellow barkeep and pre-eminent Richmond mixologist Bobby Kruger, who tends bar at Bistro 27. I've enlisted him to create some "Mad Men"-inspired drinks to coincide with the new season of the best show on television. His recipes are in the sidebar.
Now I don't give a damn if this idea already has been done to death so shut your trap, clip these recipes out and drink like a man. If you must speak, think pithy. Not long-winded and droning as you tend to be. Lose that smile too. We're here to drink, not discuss last night's episode of "Golden Girls," Nancy.
That was so Draper of me.
Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Jack also serves as co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @Jackgoesforth.
Kruger's New Throwbacks
1. Mai Tai
Original Recipe by Trader Vic
2 ounces overproof rum (I like Wray & Nephew rum)
Juice from one fresh lime
1/2 ounce Patron Citronge
1/4 ounce cashew fruit purée
1/2 ounce orgeat syrup
Directions: Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously. Pour contents into a tumbler. Add a sprig of fresh mint. Orgeat is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose water.
Original Recipe by Dr. Iain Marshall, though there's some debate to the veracity of that claim
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1 ounce Cocchi Barolo Chinato
Dash of chocolate bitters
1 large, Chartreuse-soaked cherry
Directions: Add ingredients, minus the cherry, to an ice-filled shaker. Stir and then strain into a cocktail glass. Finish with the cherry — skewered, and not dropped into the drink. The Cocchi Barolo Chinato is amazing in this drink and truly surpasses what any vermouth brings to the table. Even Carpano Antica. The flavors of this variation are spice, chocolate, cherry, anise and oak.
Popularized by Col. James E. Pepper
2 ounces rye whiskey (Old Overholt is a classic)
Several dashes Angostura Bitters
1 sugar cube
Splash of club soda
Directions: Muddle bitters, kumquats and sugar in an empty highball glass. Add the whiskey and the splash of soda. Stir the drink. Top with a single, very large ice cube. Why the addition of kumquat? It adds a little mild acidity and also the fruity pulpiness to which consumers have grown accustomed during the last century.
Bartender Stephen Ogburn of Bistro 27 also contibuted to these recipes.