With Citizens! returning with their second album European Soul on 13 April, the London-based band are ready to charge their glasses in celebration. To ensure proceedings go with a certain elan keyboard player and former barman Lawrence Diamond has written Q a guest column on how to make the perfect Old Fashioned just in time for a cocktail hour or two this weekend. Soupy twist!
Before I met the guys I would form a band with I had a job at a cocktail bar in Leeds called Mojo’s. Other people wanted a job there because they were famous for giving out free drinks and loads of the bold and the beautiful of Yorkshire drank there. I wanted a job because on a Friday night they played Blondie really loudly, and on a Tuesday evening, if there was no one else in, I could listen to Randy Newman and The Flaming Lips over and over on their giant music system.
Despite trying really hard to not learn anything of use about cocktails during my time there, my old bosses will verify that, through some kind of weird osmosis akin to my mum now knowing the names of everyone in the classic Destiny’s Child line up just through living with me and my sister, I left three years later with at least a basic understanding of how to make really good cocktails.
I should have done, I was taught by British cocktail legend Mal Evans, and worked alongside other people who are a “big deal” in the cocktail world like Jake Burger and Sam Fish (both absolute top lovely people). It’s a skill that’s stood me in good stead. It’s no surprise to learn that people in bands like booze. Indeed I would say most people really like booze. And I’ve been able to, on occasion whip up a mini storm with whatever licqour we end up with from stolen riders and late night illegal booze newsagents. However on a Wednesday night after a gig at the Deaf Institute it’s more a case of throwing together some vodka and an orange flavoured Mr Freeze to make the legendary “Runcorn Sunrise” than anything truly classy.
So i thought I would take this chance to let the readers of Q know how to make the perfect Old Fashioned with time, money, and the need to get to tomorrow’s gig in a half a decent state, no obstacle.
The Old Fashioned has almost become a bit of a cliche in the last few years. Beloved of Mad Men and Women everywhere it has gone from rarely ordered speciality (at least outside of the deep south of America) to cornerstone of every bar worth it’s salt. This doesn’t mean that it’s not a brilliant drink. And though bartenders the world over have cursed it’s rise to notoriety, it’s one of the longest drinks to prepare, and when you’ve got 100 people trying to get a drink on a Saturday night the mere mention of one is enough to trigger widespread gnashing of teeth among bar workers, it’s still a thing of beauty.
So put Tom Waits on the stereo, turn the lights down low and take a medium sized tumbler glass from the side board. The Savoy Cocktail Book calls for the use of one lump of sugar, but I prefer to use Gomme (Sugar Syrup), and the cocktail police aren’t going to come find you if you do. Get a nice big peel of Orange, making sure the bitter white pith has been scraped off, and lie it on the bottom of the jar. On top of that pour in a 1/4 Ounce measure of gomme and two dashes of Angustura bitters. Then use a muddler, or if you’ve not got one, the blunt end of a rolling pin, to mush the sugar and bitters into the orange peel.
This feels really satisfying and creates a kind of sweet mash that your Bourbon is going to pull flavour from. Next add a couple of cubes of ice and a 1/2 ounce of really good rye bourbon, I like a Rittenhouse if I’m pushed for an answer, and stir this slowly and gently. Look at the beautiful patterns the ice and booze make on the side of the glass. Turn up the Tom Waits on the stereo. Add another 1/4 ounce of gomme and another 1/2 ounce of bourbon. Stir some more. Think about how good summer is, promise yourself you’ll spend more time relaxing in the sun this year. Think about booking that holiday to New Orleans you’ve been promising yourself. More ice, a little more gomme, a little more bourbon, stir stir stir.
Then as we’re getting nearer the top of the glass I like to go TOTALLY BATSHIT CRAZY and come in out of left field (Cue loads of real bartenders shaking their heads). Instead of the last 1/4 ounce of gomme i like to take a spoonful of the maraschino juice that gathers in the jar of really good maraschino cocktail cherries and stir that into the glass. It brings back memories of Mr Kipling bake well tarts and gives the cocktail a little bit of candied sweetness which is fine be me. Put in your last bit of ice, another 1/2 ounce of bourbon, and stir and stir and stir. It should take 5 minutes give or take, so if you want to go change the Tom Waits for some Muddy Waters or Destiny’s Child, feel free.
Once your glass is full, take a cherry from your jar, eat it. Then get another one and balance it on a cube of ice at the top of the glass so it looks fancy, but leave that orange peel just mushing around with all the booze giving it’s sweet flavour out. Then go to the porch, or just a window that looks on to the local park or grass wasteland if your in Britain and take a sip. It should be full of flavour, strong, but not overpowering and a little sweet. As the ice melts and everything mixes together it should improve so that the last sip is as satisfying as the first, but in a different way. Like a good Otis Redding live album, or Thriller by Michael Jackson.
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