Photo by Jonathan Webb Recipe and Story by Jonathan Webb
2 oz Toki Japanese Whisky
1/2 oz Orange Tea Syrup*
2 dashes Fee Bros. Cherry Bitters
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with large ice cubes and stir approximately thirty revolutions. Strain the drink into a large mouthed Old Fashioned glass with a single ice cube. Garnish with a good cherry and an orange peel on a skewer.
*ORANGE TEA SYRUP
5 bags Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea
1 c water
1 c sugar
1/4 t orange flower water
Let the teabags steep in the water at approximately 180 degrees for 10 minutes. Strain out the tea bags and add the sugar and orange flower water. Stir over medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Allow to cool, then strain, bottle and refrigerate.
The Japanese have a way of approaching most crafts with a sense of simple elegance and refinement, and this is especially true when it comes to cocktails.
Nine years ago when I made my first Old Fashioned, you could have called it anything but elegant or refined. It involved a couple too many sugar cubes, a roughly-cut slice of orange, the brightest red cherry you’ve ever seen, the cheapest rye money can buy, a dusty old bottle of something called “Angostura Bitters,” and a lot of haphazard muddling. These days I like to think that I’ve cleaned up my act a bit, at least professionally. I have no problem mixing up an Old Fashioned or ten during a shift, and, in fact, I quite enjoy it. However, there is something I still find rather charming about the first version I made, especially the old cherry and orange slice—and that’s where The Vacation comes in.
Wanting to hone in more on that Japanese sensibility, I reached for a bottle of Suntory Whisky Toki, one of my new
favorite spirits to play around with. It has a delicate flavor, with crisp apple and pear notes, as well as a nice smoky bite at the end. With a classic build of an Old Fashioned in mind, I came up with an orange tea syrup to replace the mangled fruit and swapped the food-coloring drenched cherry for a couple dashes of cherry bitters.
Altogether, the drink is light and smooth, starting with bright and pleasant notes of fruit and finishing with more nuanced flavors of wood, flowers and smoke. It also serves as a nice reminder that somewhere between the poles of “a poorly-made cocktail crafted by an awkward novice bartender” and “Japanese sophistication and grace,” there lies a nice middle ground where I can continue to comfortably define my own take on bartending. o
Jonathan is the beverage manager at Fine & Dandy, located in The District at Eastover.