Libation of the Month: Old-Fashioned
Where to Find It: Tonic Seafood & Steak
111 W. 11th St., Wilmington; 302-777-2040
At Tonic Seafood & Steak, expect to belly up to the bar beside a young professional or banker. That’s expected given the downtown Wilmington location. Their order, however, might surprise you. “They say, ‘Let me have an Old-Fashioned,’” says veteran bartender John Holton.
These customers are in the right place. Holton is a cocktail-history buff, and the resurgence of the Old-Fashioned as a trendy drink is as classic as it gets. Its moniker comes from its roots as a libation that predates the late 19th-century cocktail revolution. Thirsty customers uninterested in the new fads would ask for a traditional spirit-forward drink—dubbed an “Old-Fashioned.”
The drink is often made with a sugar cube, bitters and water. However, Holton prefers a simple syrup. “Sugar crystals don’t dissolve quickly enough,” explains Holton, who prefers a smooth drink. The syrup and bitters create a sweet-savory balance that forms the backbone for bourbon. (Some prefer whiskey.)
And forget the startlingly red maraschino cherries often used in the drink today, which weren’t readily available until mass production in the 1920s. Instead, Holton adds an orange peel garnish or wraps the peel around a dark-colored sour Amarena cherry. Next up? Try his signature Manhattan. Then call an Uber.