Who doesn’t love an epiphany every now and then?
All of us tend to get comfortably settled into our plushy recliners of habit, letting the remote control of our lives lead us back to the tried, the true, the reliable pleasures. That’s as true with cocktails as anything else in life.
And that’s fine…but oh the joy of being surprised, of having your preconceptions jolted, the suffusing pleasure of expectations knocked askew, occasioning a head tilted back, eyes widening, and a poorly suppressed “What the….! Hmmm.”
Consider the Old Fashioned. A whiskey drink if ever there was one, mellow but stimulating harmony of oak and vanilla and caramel spiced wonderfulness mingled with fresh orange essence, a tinge of balancing sweetness and counterpoint of bitterness, all cold and tingling on the tongue. Few things are more satisfying than a good whiskey old fashioned, as proved by the durable persistence of the cocktail in society’s bars and watering holes.
In the upper Midwest though, traditions differ. There, if you don’t specify otherwise you’re likely to get the local favorite, the “brandy old fashioned,” usually made with American brandy. (For more eloquent elaboration of the brandy old fashioned, read veteran bartender Jeff Morgenthaler’s blog entry.)
Go to the Multnomah Whisk(e)y Library, that lovingly curated temple to spirituous bliss, and order a Cognac Old Fashioned, thus elevating the standard brandy old fashioned, and prepare to have that essential whiskey-ness dashed on the rocks (well, rock actually) of change.
You will be jolted from your expectations in the most delicious of ways—not least in the sense that a place called a “whiskey library” features a splendid cognac-based variation on an iconic whiskey cocktail. (But once you go to MWL you’ll realize it’s about quite a bit more than whiskey; it is truly about all spirits.)
The MWL Cognac Old Fashioned, made in the ‘modern’ style, clean and golden-bright and served on a giant hard ice cube that chills perfectly and oh-so-slowly dilutes so as not to water down the balance of the drink, uses H by Hine*, a VSOP-grade cognac from one of the finest producers, which happens to be a near-perfect match with the fresh orange flavors intrinsic to the old fashioned—not accidental or happenstance, because H by Hine was designed by Hine Master Blender Eric Forget specifically to accommodate mixed drinks and cocktails, with a solidity and richness of aroma and flavor, intense fruit, both fresh and dried, and inherent lively spiciness to marry well with other ingredients yet maintain its individual character as well.
This is a revelatory cocktail, a refreshing twist on an old favorite that forces you to recalibrate what you thought you knew and to explore new directions. It’s not “better than” your favorite whiskey old fashioned: it’s “different from” in a delightful new way.
Cognac is making quite a comeback these days on the cocktail scene. As it should, because good cognac—or any good brandy—is every bit as complex and multifaceted as a good whiskey. Try MWL’s H by Hine old fashioned and you’ll enjoy an entirely different way of looking at an iconic cocktail.
*Cognac Hine is imported and marketed in the U.S. by Anchor Distilling Company.
Next up: a Cognac Old Fashioned at Kask, an entirely different ‘brandy old fashioned’ with an entirely different Cognac.