One drink, two ways

H’s way

Meet Robert Hall-Allen (“H” to everyone, including you), who graduated from a British boarding school to the noble rank of a London bartender. He’s been mixing drinks for almost two decades, and he walks us through how to make an Old-Fashioned his way: with bourbon. But first, he tells us what’s going on in the world of cocktails, why premium liquors are a con and what it takes to make a properly good drink.

What’s happening now?

“Cocktails are becoming so much about the bartender. In the UK, it’s the bar that matters. Here, everyone is obsessed with fame. Just make the drinks, already.”

On premium liquors

“Why spend $100 on a bottle of liquor when you’re going to mix it down? We’re always told that the most expensive stuff is the best. That’s bollocks. The most expensive stuff is a con.”

Four tips

“You can make a great drink with any liquor as long as you use measures, get the balance right, nail the presentation and make people feel welcome.”

The take

“I prefer bourbon. And I use a lemon twist rather than using an orange twist, which is the standard. A bartender in London made one for me like that years ago, and I switched because I find it more refreshing.”

 

The ingredients

  • 2–3 oz. Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon
  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • 3–4 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 large lemon twist

The method

  1. Build and stir 1 ounce of bourbon, the sugar cube and the bitters with ice for 5-7 minutes until all the sugar is dissolved
  2. Add 1–2 more ounces of bourbon
  3. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice cubes or a large ice globe
  4. Garnish with a long piece of lemon peel, twisted

Shaun Layton’s way

Shaun is a bartender (“not the M-word, not a barchitect” and, no, he didn’t go to “Barvard”), who’s been making drinks for over a decade, likely drinking them for longer, and who’s written about them for almost that long. He shows us how to make an Old-Fashioned the way he prefers it: with American rye. But first, he tells us what’s happening now (hint: good 80s cocktails), how to avoid people rolling over in their graves and how to play with drink recipes.

What’s happening now?

“For a while, cocktails were cool and new again, so you could only get them in a few places, and it was really pretentious. Now you can get them anywhere. And it’s becoming about good service and personality. Also, 80s cocktails, with good ingredients, are coming back.”

On premium liquors

“Once you reach a certain price point, it should only be drunk on its own. There’s no point in using a Louis XIII cognac in an Old-Fashioned. The guy who made that cognac would be rolling over in his grave. Imagine taking a great Bordeaux and using it to make sangria.”

One tip

“Drinks are like food. Once you learn a few basics, you can play with the recipes.”

The take

“I use American ryes because they’re bigger and bolder. This won’t be a popular statement, but most Canadian ryes wouldn’t even be allowed to call themselves rye in America—some are 90% corn.”

 

The ingredients

  • 2–3 oz. Rittenhouse Rye (or Sazerac Rye)
  • 3–4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • a 1-inch circle of orange peel (just use a potato peeler)
  • a large orange twist
  • a brandied cherry

The method

  1. Put the 1-inch piece of orange peel, the bitters and a sugar cube in a mixing glass, and muddle them
  2. Add the 2–3 ounces of rye plus ice
  3. Stir for 2–3 minutes (it doesn’t need to be completely dissolved)
  4. Strain into a classic rocks glass with fresh ice cubes
  5. Add the orange twist and cherry

 

Vanessa Richmond