Earlier this year, I got the chance to visit The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. The quirky spot has exhibitions on things like the evolution, etymology and origin of what became known as the cocktail. The museum traces the word cocktail to a letter to the editor that appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository on May 13, 1806 (other sources trace it further back to an edition of The Farmer's Cabinet on April 28, 1803). Back then, it appeared as “cock-tail” and, in a response to another letter asking what in the world a “cock-tail” was, an editor described it as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters….”
Spirit, sugar, water and bitters—sounds a lot like an Old Fashioned, doesn't it? While there's debate as to what the first-ever cocktail was—people in New Orleans claim it's the Sazerac, a slight variation of the Old Fashioned that involves rinsing the glass with absinthe—most agree the recipe was something close to the Old Fashioned. Follow Kinsee on Facebook, Twitter or shoot her an email.
The classic-cocktail craze occurring these days is cool, and not only because the drinks taste good and pure. Every time a 20-something bartender starts with a historic recipe and then experiments with small adjustments, he or she is adding to 200 years of tradition.
At Jsix Restaurant and Lounge (616 J St., Downtown), Joshua Packtor and the rest of the bartending team have a great Winter Old Fashioned. They use Woodford Reserve bourbon—a small-batch brand that's the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby—blood-orange bitters and a simple syrup made in-house. Whatever spices they put in their secret sauce—did I detect hints of nutmeg and cinnamon?—make this variation the perfect cold-weather cocktail. It starts sweet and ends with a nice, warming burn.
On the flipside, if you're looking for something zesty, light and refreshing, Jsix's King Collins is as good as it gets. Made with Hendrick's Gin, a Scotland distillery that adds Bulgarian rose and cucumber flavoring to the traditional juniper infusion, it's rounded out with a splash of St. Germain Elderflower, cucumber and agave nectar.
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