Is summer over?
Maybe. Around here, the early mornings are already cool and damp.
Today, fog hung over the pasture, turning the horses into ghostly creatures. Overhead, flocks of geese honked as they flapped their way south for the winter. A single withered oak leaf drifted to the ground.
One sure sign of the changing seasons is the way that summer cocktails have suddenly lost their zing. Those luscious mojitos made with muddled garden mint now seem a bit thin. Ditto for the iced elderflower and cucumber cooler, and anything with chilled prosecco.
No, what I want to drink now is a classic cocktail. I want a drink with real body. Something like an Old Fashioned with a bittersweet edge that heralds the coming of fall.
Luckily I have the recipe. It comes from Graham Weddington, the very genial, lately mustachioed host in the bar at Nana’s, our favorite local hangout. Graham’s roots are in New Orleans, and good Southern boy that he is, he knows just how to make you feel like the most desirable guest at the party.
He and his brother Brad not only know their way around the liquor cabinet but also mix a mean cocktail. Just to be clear, mean means fabulous.
Our man favors a rye Old Fashioned, preferably made with 92-proof Redemption rye whiskey, which has enough oomph to stand up to the bitters that give this drink a bracing edge. There are actually four bitter additions—two dashes of orange, plus a whisper each of Angostura, Peychaud and Carpano Antica vermouth (technically sweet but with a spicy, herbal note that’s anything but cloying).
For balance, he stirs in little of the sweet syrup from a jar of Luxardo cherries and then finishes the drink with the cherries themselves—surely the most delicious way ever to get your maraschino fix. Don’t forget the citrus twist. Orange peel is perfect, but Meyer lemon is an intriguing alternative.
Use big ice cubes if you have them: They’ll melt slowly, which means that your last sip will be as good as the first.
All together now: Let’s raise a glass to fall!
Graham’s Bittersweet Old Fashioned
Makes 1 cocktail
1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey, preferably Redemption
Dash of Carpano Antica vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Dash of Peychaud bitters
Two dashes of orange bitters
1 teaspoon Luxardo cherry syrup, or to taste
1 Luxardo cherry (or more)
1 orange or Meyer lemon twist
Put several large ice cubes in a glass. Add the rye, vermouth, bitters and Luxardo syrup. Stir briskly.
Garnish with one or more Luxardo cherries and a citrus twist.