Express yourself the old-fashioned way


Dan Reiss presents an ‘Agave Old Fashioned’

There’s a special place in my heart for tequila and I’ve always found the Old Fashioned template to be the truest expression of a bartender’s personal style. One needs to find a harmonic balance within the heat of the spirit, the sugar, and a chosen bitters. Perfection simplified.

At first, a good old fashioned is boldly assertive, aromatically and on the palate. That’s why they call it a sipper! But, like all things with age, it should mellow out and develop subtlety as you stretch towards the end. The final, watery sips should whet your taste for the next one.

Agave spirits get a bad rap here in Canada because, for most people, their only experience is with mixto tequilas at college ragers with accompanying rager-sized hangovers. Those aren’t the real deal.

The best tequila is always “100 per cent Agave” and it says so on the bottle. The better the tequila, the better your drink will be. You can’t fake quality ingredients. Mezcal is made from wild agaves versus tequila’s cultivated blue agave. The piñas are smoked and then naturally fermented.

For harmony and viscosity, we’ll use an oleo-saccharum. Peel a few lemons a day ahead and muddle them with an ounce of sugar per lemon’s worth of peel. Leave it on the counter and you’ll be surprised with the amount of fragrant oil that gets pulled from the peels. This adds depth you won’t find with traditional simple syrups.

A word about ice: it’s almost more important than your quality ingredients. Stir the drink in a larger vessel with lots of ice, at least 150 per cent of the liquid volume. Remember, you have to chill the vessel and not just the liquids. Not enough and you’ll get a sopping drink rather than a bracingly cold one.

I haven’t named brands for this drink because I want you to experiment. Mixing great drinks is about knowing a base ratio and then adjusting for personal taste. I’ve tried this drink with multiple mezcals and tequilas and they all showcase their own characters. Sip and let Mexico’s sun warm your soul.

Agave Old Fashioned

1.5 oz (45 mL) Reposado Tequila
0.5 oz (15 mL) Mezcal
1 tsp lemon oleo-saccharum*
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1. Add all ingredients to mixing glass
2. Fill glass with ice
3. Stir until the glass is cold
4. Taste a drip off of the back of your fist and adjust sugar/bitters to taste
5. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, garnish with twisted orange peel

*Lemon Oleo-saccharum
3 to 4 lemons, peeled with as little pith as possible
1 oz (30 mL) white sugar per lemon

Muddle sugar and peels together and leave on counter, covered.
After 8 to 12 hours, mix with one-eighth to one-quarter cup (30 to 60 mL) water in a small pot.
Stir quickly over low heat, heating as little as possible.
Strain and enjoy! Keeps for two weeks.
Note: After peeling, use the juice from the leftover lemons to make yourself a Whiskey Sour.