If you’ve never had a classic Old Fashioned, first: shame on you. Second: it’s one of the best cocktails in existence. Perfectly boozy, sweet and bitter, it covers all the cocktail bases. A traditional Old Fashioned is made up of bourbon or whiskey, a sugar cube or simple syrup, and bitters. Of course, there are many variations—I just had one in NOLA with demerara simple that was to-die-for—and it’s a classic that begs for a little experimentation.
I had a brandy old fashioned at Sonoma Cider just up the road in Healdsburg (PSA: their new taproom is awesome). Besides crafting some amazing ciders, they also distill their own apple brandy. Though I did try a flight of 6 ciders (no brainer there), I also snagged their cocktail menu and ordered up their brandy old fashioned. It was perfectly sweet, unique, and a drink I knew I wanted to recreate at home.
Though I definitely need to pick up a bottle of Sonoma Cider’s brandy, I had a bottle of A de Fussigny cognac from the holidays hanging around that I wanted to use for this cocktail. A quick note on brandy vs. cognac (because yay: learning!): cognac is brandy that is made in Cognac, France. Think of it like Champagne: it can only be called Champagne if it’s produced in Champagne, France. Same thing with cognac. Other regions also have their own variations of brandy, like Calvados (apple brandy made in Normandy), Grappa (Italian brandy), and Armagnac (also from France, but another region—Gascony).
Another key differentiator: Cognac must be double distilled in copper pot stills. There are other unique traits (flavor, grape varietals used, aging techniques, and ABV levels), but the location is the key here.
Now that we’re AT LEAST 2% smarter, on to the drink. In addition to the A de Fussigny cognac, I used a sugar cube and cardamom bitters, though I think orange bitters would be great here. Since the brandy has a little more edge to it than bourbon (in my opinion—or, conversely, because I’m not much of a brandy drinker and it made me pucker a little more than bourbon), I garnished it with a rock candy swizzle stick, which dissolves slowly and doesn’t oversaturate the cocktail with sweetness. If you didn’t think you needed to keep rock candy swizzle sticks on hand, you’ll quickly become a convert.
This is a great pre-dinner drink, and also works well sipping alongside a square of good dark chocolate.
Are you a brandy convert yet? I’m working on it.
Brandy Old Fashioned
- 2 oz brandy or cognac
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 dashes cardamom bitters (orange work well too)
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass packed with ice. Stir until chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange peel (and a rocks candy stirrer if you have one on hand! 😉