(Re)-introducing: The Old Fashioned Good Fella

The Old Fashioned Good Fella is actually for sale at a bar, despite the fact that I created it. I am no less surprised than you

I have peaked as an amateur drinksman. If this were a profession for me I’d immediately retire so I could exit at a high point.

One my own original creations now appears on the menu of an Italian bistro in my neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland.

Craig Stoltz cocktail recipe Old Fashioned Good Fella
The Old Fashioned Good Fella, created by yours truly, available at Sal’s Italian Kitchen in Bethesda, Maryland. $12 at Sal’s, free at my house just up the road. Stop by either place!

I have personally witnessed real humans pay $12 for the privilege of drinking an Old Fashioned Good Fella. I once saw a guy try it and shoot his eyebrows up and nod his head, I think in approval.

The Old Fashioned Good Fella

  • 2.25 oz High West Double Rye
    • The nice rye bite stands up to the other powerful flavors
  • Scant half-oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
    • If you’re not aquainted, this is a real charmer, smooth and spicy. Order it neat at the bar, after dinner. You’ll thank me later. 
  • 4 [!] dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • I know, that’s a lot. Somehow it’s less of a drink with fewer dashes. 
  • Flamed orange peel garnish

It’s all in the name, fella

Both careful readers of A Measured Spirit may recognize this as a drink about which I have previously blogged, complete with origin story and its rickety relationship to the classic Old Fashioned. I then called it the Ginger Orange Flame.

I’ve got to say, “The Old Fashioned Good Fella” — inviting a sort of suburban mobster affectation by its purchaser — is a way better marketing name for an Italian restaurant menu item than “Ginger Orange Flame.”

That name I imagined dark and romantic, what with the promise of the tang of ginger and a reference to “flame.” This may say more about the activity of my imagination than anything else, but hey, it worked for me. At least before I thought about anybody actually buying it.

More importantly, The Old Fashioned Good Fella is also way better than “Craig’s Old Fashioned,” which the barkeep at Sal’s, much to my horror, proposed to name the drink at first. Happily, his manager refused.

I try to imagine myself ordering something called “Craig’s Old Fashioned” anywhere and fail utterly.

Starting a tab, pal?

I think the margin is pretty good for the OFGF, despite the abundance of High West Double Rye and Domaine de Canton, each retailing at about $40 a bottle.

If wholesale price is half of retail, let’s see…25 ounces per bottle, 2.25 of rye, .5 of liqueur…that’s only about $1.75 for the ingredients. Triple that for personnel, space, advertising, and all that other stuff, and…I may be making Sal’s a lot of money.

Someday, in fact, they may comp me for an Old Fashioned Good Fella.

I’m still waiting.

Those suburban mobsters are a tough group, I’ll tell ya.

Introducing: The Ginger Orange Flame

An original variation of a classic. But you must never call it any sort of Old Fashioned

A Measured Spirit Ginger Orange Flame cocktail
An “Improved Whiskey Cocktail,” maybe. But don’t call it an Old Fashioned. Even though it sort of is.

When a bar has a lousy cocktail list — swizzly vodka things, cranberry akai hoo-ha, something-tinis, etc. — I often scan the bottles along the back wall to see what I might be able to put together.

In this for worse or better I’ve been emboldened by Robert Simonson, whose wonderful book The Old Fashioned explains that this classic ur-cocktail is built along the original cocktail formula: booze, sugar, bitters, and “water,” which is to say ice.

The result, around the 1860s, was served by among others the ur-bartender Professor Jerry Thomas [him again] as the “Whiskey Cocktail.”

Almost immediately it spawned variations, as barkeeps scanned their own shelves to see how they could push things forward. The variations first added different kinds of sweeteners — curacao, maraschino.Then all hell broke loose.

These were often referred to as “Improved Whiskey Cocktails.”

Purists were horrified, Simonson reports, sending some of them back to the unadorned…wait for it…”old fashioned” cocktail.

As Simonson points out, this did not thwart the “rebels.” Over nearly 150 years a few great variations of the Old Fashioned and many bad ones have emerged, with every kind of booze, sweetener, bitters, and garnish imaginable.

The book curates some of the best variations — “Improved Old Fashioneds,” you might call them.

New, if not “improved”

And so I am perched on a barstool at a neighborhood joint, where I’ve worked through the short list of cocktails with little enthusiasm. Spying Old West Double Rye and Domain de Canton ginger liquor along the back wall, I think booze, sweetener, bitters….

I ask Sasha for a shot of the rye, half an ounce of Domaine de Canton. He tastes with a straw, scratches his chin, reaches for the orange bitters and applies them generously. Increases the dose of rye a bit. He flames an orange peel.

And you know what? It actually works. In fact, it’s really good.

There’s enough double rye to keep the bite, but the ginger liqueur softens the burn and brings a bit of its own spicy tang. The orange adds a citrus-y vibe, its volume turned up by the flamed orange.

Over several visits we work on the proportions. We’ve landed here for now.

The Ginger Orange Flame

  • 2.25 oz Old West Double Rye
    • A pricey bottle for home use at $40. Rittenhouse, about half the price, substitutes nicely; the 100-proof version does so even better
  • .40-ish oz Domain de Canton ginger liqueur
    • $30 to $40 a bottle
  • 4 [!] dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • I know, that’s a lot. Somehow it’s less of a drink with fewer dashes. $6. Cheap! 
  • Flamed orange peel garnish

This is a boozy drink. Have two and you’re verging into Uber territory. It drinks smooth and has enough complexity to be interesting. It’s a sparky drink more than a contemplative one.

In a moment of weakness [perhaps he’d been drinking] Sasha said he’d put the drink on the menu as “Craig’s Old Fashioned.” This would be a first — a semi-original of mine appearing on a cocktail menu, where other humans might actually pay money for it.

With the high-quality hooch, it would have to be a $10+ drink, high for a neighborhood joint. So it needs a compelling name. A drink called the “Ginger Orange Flame” would sell way better, with its hints of pyrotechnics and, perhaps, romance.

Plus, by refusing to call it any kind of “Old Fashioned,” I think Robert Simonson would approve.

Of the name, at least.

The Ginger Orange Flame, like so many riffs on the classic, may be an acquired taste.