During my third year at University I lived in Paris. Drinking in Paris is expensive at the best of times, but on a student budget it’s pretty eye-watering, so we soon got to know the Happy Hours of various establishments by heart. The Chesterfield Café, an American bar just off the Champs Élysées, had such an Hour between 4pm and 8pm every weekday. Half price cocktails seemed as good a way as any to kick off the weekend, and so it became a Friday fixture.
I didn’t really drink cocktails at the time, and found the choice bewildering. Somewhere along the line, an impatient bartender suggested to me I pick a ‘go-to’ cocktail. “Something you like that you can order anywhere. Then while you drink that, you can read the menu”.
My first go-to was a Manhattan, but at some point this got supplanted by the Old Fashioned. It then took a further few years to realise that despite the heroic efforts of bartenders the world over, the Old Fashioned isn’t a difficult drink to make. A decent whiskey (I favour bourbon), sugar, bitters, ice. That’s it.
Put a half-teaspoon of caster sugar in a rocks glass or tumbler.
Add a few drops of water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved
Add a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters, stir again
Add a decent handful of ice, then pour over a double measure (70ml) of your preferred whiskey. I like Woodford Reserve, or Makers Mark.