Registry Tampa Bay

The Old Fashioned is definitely in fashion. The brown-liquor drink sits atop the list of 10 Most Popular Cocktails at liquor.com, and it ranks high in several other surveys I checked out.

During our Old-Fashioned sojourn in downtown St. Pete, we asked a bartender if young people order the drink. “All the time,” replied Amara from behind the bar at The Mandarin Hide on Central Avenue.

It’s believed that the Old-Fashioned dates back to the early 1800s as one of the first examples of a cocktail — a simple concoction made with rye or bourbon, sugar, water and bitters. The drink probably got its name in the 1870s. As bartenders were adding embellishments, making cocktails fancier, customers who preferred the basics would order “an old-fashioned whiskey cocktail.”

The drink hasn’t changed much over the years, but at some point the use of a sugar cube was replaced by simple syrup. This didn’t sit well with my friend and consultant, David Downing, who joined me on Tuesday night. When we exited the car in front of the Cordova Inn, headed to The Scott bar within, my reading glasses fogged up. A sure sign of summer.

Before we begin: To the best of my knowledge, I’d never had an Old Fashioned.

THE SCOTT

It was approaching dusk as we found a parking spot directly in front the Cordova. There’s something classy about a hotel awning. More should have them. The concrete shell of a major addition to St. Petersburg’s oldest hotel (it opened as The Pier Hotel in 1921) stood next door.

The Scott wasn’t what I had envisioned for a hotel lounge. It’s like a cross between a Florida room and the coffee nook at a limited-service hotel — brightly lit, with wooden floors and a small terrazzo-topped bar with six stools. A living room-style sitting area was situated about 20 feet away. It was a Tuesday in May, so no surprise the place was dead. With only two customers besides us, the room was agreeably quiet.

Our bartender, Derek, was relaxed (he could afford to be), and chatted amiably with us as he executed the simple steps to make an Old Fashioned ($15). I asked for Bulleit instead of Four Roses bourbon. Derek added a slice of orange peel and a Luxardo maraschino cherry. David adjourned to the porch, and I joined him soon after. Although it was muggy, we were chill, sipping our drinks in wooden rocking chairs.

Appearance, Texture and Taste

My first Old Fashioned looked elegant in its simple, chunky glass. A single large ice cube prevented the drink from becoming watered down.

I occasionally sip bourbon, mostly at home, and I take it straight with one small cube. I appreciate bourbon’s bite. The extra ingredients in the Old Fashioned mitigated that with a sweetness and syrupy quality. My first swallow underwhelmed me, but as I sipped along I enjoyed the cocktail more and more. (Perhaps a slight buzz coming on helped.)

I took my time and drank it to the last drop.

THE MANDARIN HIDE

We walked into the bar’s dark confines at 8:30 to the strains of “Come and Get Your Love,” a lively hit by the one-hit-wonder band Redbone. I’m fond of the tune; problem was, it blasted throughout the room that had just a few people sitting at the bar. David and I had a hard time conversing and I had to lean over the bar to order my drink.

After a few more songs, I politely said to Amara that the music was good, but too loud. “Let me turn it down,” she replied. Just like that. Within seconds, David and I resumed an easy back-and-forth.

Amara used Larceny bourbon, which is a bit pricier than Bulleit, but I didn’t quiz her on the other ingredients.

Appearance, Texture and Taste

This Old Fashioned ($15.50) looked similar to the one at the Cordova, although not as handsomely presented. My second Old Fashioned tasted quite similar to the first. It was maybe a bit less syrupy and a tad less sweet. Truth is, I really couldn’t tell the difference.

I drank mine to the bottom, and earned a mellow buzz, but not as much of one as I expected.

I’ve decided to hand over my judge-and-jury duties to David, a spirits and cocktail aficionado. That’s a first, but there’s nothing in the Friday Food Fight Handbook that prohibits it.

The Winner of the Old Fashioned Donnybrook Is …

Mandarin Hide.

David explained that the second Old Fashioned had a more complex flavor, particularly the bourbon, and used better ingredients. We’ll go with that.

In all, I had essentially the same drink in two vastly different environments. I preferred The Scott, but that probably has something to do with seniors and rocking chairs. In all, it was a pleasant evening that ended early.

I drank my first, second — and almost certainly my last — Old Fashioned cocktails.

Top photo by Mel Downing.

 

 

 

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4 Responses

  1. This article was incredibly insightful! I was captivated by the thoroughness of the information and the clear, engaging way it was delivered. The depth of research and expertise evident in this post is remarkable, significantly elevating the content’s quality. The insights in the opening and concluding sections were particularly compelling, sparking some ideas and questions I hope you will explore in future articles. If there are any additional resources for further exploration on this topic, I would love to delve into them. Thank you for sharing your expertise and enriching our understanding of this subject. I felt compelled to comment immediately after reading due to the exceptional quality of this piece. Keep up the fantastic work—I’ll definitely be returning for more updates. Your dedication to crafting such an excellent article is highly appreciated!

  2. This article was incredibly insightful! I was captivated by the thoroughness of the information and the clear, engaging way it was delivered. The depth of research and expertise evident in this post is remarkable, significantly elevating the content’s quality. The insights in the opening and concluding sections were particularly compelling, sparking some ideas and questions I hope you will explore in future articles. If there are any additional resources for further exploration on this topic, I would love to delve into them. Thank you for sharing your expertise and enriching our understanding of this subject. I felt compelled to comment immediately after reading due to the exceptional quality of this piece. Keep up the fantastic work—I’ll definitely be returning for more updates. Your dedication to crafting such an excellent article is highly appreciated!

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