An Irish nod to a classic American bourbon cocktail

Brian Rung

    The most popular Irish whiskey in the world, and the most popular Irish whiskey in Ireland, are in fact two different whiskies.
    If this were a family feud survey, no doubt a contestant would guess that Jameson is the most popular whiskey in Ireland. Survey says? Despite being the most popular Irish whiskey in the world, Jameson is the third most popular in the Emerald Isle.
    The second most popular is Paddy, and  topping the list is one of the most storied whiskies of the world, Powers.
    When discussing Irish whiskey with spirits enthusiasts, the names Redbreast, Tullamore Dew, Bushmills, and of course Jameson, are all likely to dominate the conversation.
    All are quality Irish spirits that have benefited from well executed US marketing campaigns. Powers is rarely part of the conversation, and it's time for that to change.
    The United States market for Irish whiskey has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the spirits industry over the last decade. Until recently, Irish whiskey has taken a back seat to the craft bourbon boom and the growing single malt Scotch sector.
    Irish standards such as Paddy's and Powers are now widely available in the United States, and consumers are taking full advantage of the resurgence.
    There are several offerings in the Powers line, all of them are excellent. Powers “Gold Label” is the industry standard in Ireland, similar to what a Jack Daniels or a Jim Beam is to the US market. Powers gold label is a blend, although Powers offers both single pot still and blends in their line of quality whiskies.
    I would like to take this opportunity to point out that many single malt Scotch fans (myself included) typically do not drink blended Scotch, but will drink blended Irish whiskies all day long.
    It's a bit hypocritical among us single malt snobs, but wanted to point this out. Most blended whiskies of the world are blended to be smooth, but blended Irish whiskies take smooth to another level. In fact, Bushmill's Black is quite possibly the smoothest whiskey that I have ever tasted.
    This week we are going to make an Irish Old Fashioned, an Irish nod to the classic American bourbon cocktail.
    Before we do that, I would like to add that Powers Gold is in a slightly higher price point than Jameson, but only by $8 to $10. The good news is that all three of the Irish standards can typically be found under $30, both Jameson and Paddy are priced right around $20 depending on your state and local taxes, and Powers can be found for around $30.  
    Ninety-nine percent of the whiskey consumed in Ireland is done so straight up, maybe with a few drops of water, and of course a Guinness chaser. Outside of the Irish coffee and Irish cream, Ireland is not known for cocktails. Seizing the moment, the American mixology community took an Irish whiskey and plugged it in to a tried and true recipe, and the result is delicious and still very Irish.
    The classic Old Fashioned is sugar, bitters and bourbon. I enjoy the occasional Old Fashioned with friends, but when I make them the number one request is “not too sweet.” Bourbon is sweet, sugar is sweet, be careful because it is easy to make an Old Fashioned too sweet.
    What I like about the Irish Old Fashioned is that it does not use sugar at all, but rather the complex Benedictine liqueur for the sweet component. The end result is a rich whiskey cocktail that is not too strong, not too sweet.  
    Yes, the Irish Old Fashioned calls for three-quarters ounce Benedictine, and you would never under any circumstances use that much simple syrup in an Old Fashioned. Keep in mind that while the Benedictine brings sweetness to the drink, it brings a complex blend of herbal and aromatic notes as well.
    Benedictine is one of the most unique spirits on the planet and one that every aspiring mixologist must try. It is a classic French herbal liqueur made from a blend of 27 herbs and spices with an almost unrivaled complexity.
    It is widely available, inexpensive compared to other French liqueurs, and is a key ingredient in many classics including the Singapore Sling, Derby Cocktail, and the Creole Cocktail.
    When building this or any other “100 percent” spirit cocktail in a mixing glass, I prefer to add about a tablespoon of finely crushed ice to the drink before I stir the drink. This serves the same purpose as adding a few drops of water to your straight whiskey, extra dilution.
    I find it better to control dilution during the mixing, then pouring over one large ice cube in the glass for less dilution on the back end. Pick up some larger ice molds for your Old Fashioned, the drink will last twice as long before it looks and tastes like something from the airport bar.
    Use a good Irish whiskey, a large, single ice cube, and savor this one as you become acquainted with Irish whiskey.
    The Irish Old Fashioned is built in a mixing glass and served in an Old Fashioned glass.
    Add ice to mixing glass.
    Add 2 oz Irish Whiskey.
    Add 3/4 oz Benedictine .
    Add 2 dashes Angostura Bitters.
    Add 2 dashes orange bitters.
    Stir and strain over a large ice cube into Old Fashioned glass.
    Garnish with orange peel.
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.