Whether you are running a bar or entertaining some friends at home, you want your guests to have the best time possible. Of course, enjoying a few drinks can be a big part of that, but it is important for you as host to be able to help your guests to avoid overdoing it.
Besides being distinctly easy to drink for a dark spirit, America’s native spirit has benefited from long and glamorous connections with popular culture and the stars of the day, from Hollywood via the rat-pack to rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop. This combination of smoothness and glamour for some time proved irresistible for younger and perhaps less sophisticated drinkers, which in turn perhaps led to American whiskey being dismissed for a time as less ‘serious’ than Scotch, rum or cognac.
The holy trinity of bourbon cocktails - Old Fashioned, Mint Julep and Manhattan - all stay close to that original conception of the cocktail as a small, strong drink based on a formula of spirit, bitters, sugar and water or ice. They each feature a generous proportion of the base spirit, modified by only a little bitters, syrup, herbs and vermouth respectively. In this they offer a masterclass in how to enhance a spirit with carefully chosen ingredients in proper proportion to create a drink that is more than the sum of its parts.
With so few ingredients, and no saving fruit juices to mask an ill-proportioned mix, there is nowhere to hide. Just as producing a simple but excellent omelette is the true test of a chef’s skill, these drinks are an excellent assessment of a bartender’s technique.
As a high example of their art, it’s no surprise that the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan and the Mint Julep constantly rank among serious bartenders’ favourite drinks.