Now a sturdy three-year-old, Old Fashioned Week has this year grown in size, knowledge, confidence and creativity, and is set to be the global festival’s most successful event to date. Running over 10-days from 1st to 10th November 2018, we take a look at what’s going on and sample some of the drinks on offer in London.
“How can you have a whole festival around one drink?” we hear you cry.
Thanks for asking. In order to answer that, we’ll have to give you a speedy history lesson. Bear with.
A (Brief) History of the Cocktail
Prior to 1806, cocktails were a very communal affair and were essentially large batch punches. Considered a British invention, this cocktail tradition travelled over to America where it evolved. Bartenders started creating single serve drinks that were bespoke to the customers who ordered them and thus, the modern-day cocktail was born. The cocktail was first defined in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” It therefore followed that an Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail would be a whiskey cocktail made in the old fashioned way.
Whilst most Old Fashioneds we get today are bourbon-based, Old Fashioned Cocktails were originally also made using other spirits such as gin and brandy. So, now in 2018, when bars are serving drinks using distilled soil and which are engulfed in marshmallow smoke, why would we limit ourselves to a single style of whiskey Old Fashioned?!
Enter Old Fashioned Week.
Old Fashioned Week 2018
Launched in 2015 by Michael Landart of the Maria Loca bar, Paris, and Rhum Fest France’s Cyrille Hugon, OFW is an open festival that gives prominence to spirit connoisseurs’’ favourite cocktail and the creativity of bartenders around the globe.
This year, OFW will be celebrating both the heritage of its namesake as well as the innovation that is running rampant through the world of cocktail-making. Over 1,000 bars across 13 international zones will be taking part in the festivities, each creating a signature Old Fashioned using Angostura bitters and at least one of the festival’s other five brand partners – Woodford Reserve bourbon, Havana Club rum, Rhum J.M., Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch malt whisky and Cognac Pierre Ferrand.
You may think that having 1,000 bars using these six brands would create only a small number of cocktail variants, however, the beauty of the challenge is that whilst at least one of the partner spirits has to be included, all other ingredients are up for grabs! To prove the diversity possible, we joined Woodford Reserve for a mini tour of some of London’s hottest participating bars.
Click here to go on tour with us and Woodford Reserve.
An example of the talent and variation out there comes in the form of bartender Jason Glynn’s (Iron Stag) Old Fashioned Pine Wine, which sees a light, aromatised wine take on the base structure of an Old Fashioned – bourbon, sweetener and bitters. Approachable and fruity, the base of Woodford Reserve brings notes of chocolate and caramel to the cocktail. A tropical Riesling vermouth is used to lengthen the base, add a wine aroma and lend a touch of peach on the nose, while a pine concentrate provides a herbaceous finish. Instead of an upfront bitter, Jason uses a mix of acids and salt: the salt enhances flavors and pulls a touch of sweetness from the sugars of the vermouth, giving the finished product a dryness similar to a glass of vino. Interested? Head over to Adam Handling’s Iron Stag during Old Fashioned Week to try it.