Dress Up Your Old Fashioned with Brandy and Amaro

Photo By Patrick Poelvoorde.

There’s a reason we reach for bourbon or rye when making an Old Fashioned. With nothing more than bitters, a sweetener, and a citrus garnish, the classic cocktail is the perfect way to showcase a great whiskey.

But there’s no reason not to change the formula up a bit. At bar and restaurant Violet’s, in San Francisco’s Richmond District, bar director Patrick Poelvoorde starts with bourbon and rye, and just keeps building from there.

“In a way, the Old Fashioned is a cocktail style, rather than an actual cocktail,” says Poelvoorde. “It used to be, when someone ordered an Old Fashioned, they wanted bourbon. Now people often ask for it with rye. In Wisconsin, they make it with brandy.”

So Poelvoorde used all of the above. 100-proof Rittenhouse rye comes together with Four Roses bourbon, Copper & King’s American Brandy, and Cardamaro—a wine-based amaro made with cardoon and blessed thistle (two artichoke relatives), which, according to Poelvoorde, is “rich and dry with a chocolatey character.” Together, that lighter Cardamaro (and a touch of simple syrup) helps to balance the brawny, 100-proof rye and the heavy dose of bitters.

With whiskey and brandy, “maybe it’s more of a Vieux Carré,” Poelvoorde allows; “We could get in a debate about it. But I think it fits the bill for any whiskey drinker. What matters to me is that you like it.”

Crossover Old Fashioned

1 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
½ oz. Four Roses Straight Bourbon
½ oz. Copper & King’s American Brandy
¼ oz. Cardamaro
¼ oz. rich simple syrup (1.5 parts white sugar dissolved in 1 part hot water)
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
2 dashes Scrappy’s Black Lemon Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice (ideally, one large cube) and garnish with an expressed lemon twist.

Carey Jones is a San Francisco-based food, spirits, and travel writer. She is the co-author, with her husband John D. McCarthy, of Be Your Own Bartender, to be released in November 2018. She frequently contributes to Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveur, and many others, and formerly served as managing editor at the James Beard Award-winning food site Serious Eats.