This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to what food people are eating, drinking, and buying right now. Here OJ Lima writes about the Gold Fashioned, a ready-to-drink cocktail he (and his wife) can’t get enough of.
I love to whip up a fancy cocktail. I have all the professional equipment, and since I own a liquor store, I have a cabinet full of spirits at my disposal. My wife was never much of a drinker, but once I started blessing her with my signature Old Fashioned—which includes a burnt lemon peel, toasted almond bitters, and a glass smoked with hickory wood—the cocktail requests got a lot more frequent. As it turns out, being Captain Cocktail is more work than I imagined. So I asked a bartender friend for some tips to shorten the process, and he told me to investigate ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails, which led me to Sunday’s Finest Gold Fashioned.
The Gold Fashioned, a riff on the Old Fashioned, was conceived by the highly skilled mixologist Robert Haynes, best known for his work at the Violet Hour and Analogue, two of Chicago’s most prestigious cocktail bars. Instead of the usual well whiskey, Haynes sources a combination of 15-year-aged bourbon, 9-year-aged bourbon, and 6-year-aged rye. Basic white sugar has been replaced by Malawian demerara. The bitters are made from a combination of Afghan saffron, Tahitian vanilla, Ecuadorian cacao, French gentian root, and Seville orange peel. And just in case you don’t have access to fresh, ripe citrus, it comes with a tiny spray bottle of orange essence to give your cocktail that classic Old Fashioned flavor profile. The premium ingredients make a big difference. I knew after one sip that this wasn’t the average canned RTD, loaded with artificial sweeteners.
One fateful Sunday night, just before the start of House of the Dragon, my wife put in a request for an Old Fashioned. I faked frustration to make her believe it was going to be a chore, then I peeled myself off the couch and disappeared into the kitchen. The Gold Fashioned was hidden in the cabinet, and I finished the cocktail in four easy moves:
- Step 1: Add a big ice cube to a rocks glass.
- Step 2: Pour the Gold Fashioned into the glass.
- Step 3: Spritz with the orange zest atomizer.
- Step 4: Garnish with an orange peel.
I was done in 30 seconds, but I dilly dallied on my phone for five minutes to sell the ruse. Once I heard the theme song, I emerged with her beloved cocktail. “This isn’t how you usually make it,” my wife said after her first sip. “But it’s really, really good.”
We don’t keep secrets in our house, so I had to fess up. “Good,” she laughed. “Now I can make these on my own.”
Here’s the only rub: The Gold Fashioned isn’t cheap. A bottle will set you back $150. I have fancy bottles of bourbon that cost less. But I like to approach the Gold Fashioned in this way: A cocktail at an upscale bar with ingredients of this quality will run you at least $20. With the Gold Fashioned, you get at least 10 drinks per bottle, so you’re looking at $15 a drink—and without the judgmental glare of a professional mixologist questioning your life choices.
I wasn’t a believer in RTDs, but the Gold Fashioned changed my mind. It’s a great bottle to have in your liquor cabinet. For me, the best part is that, now on TV nights, I get to loaf on the couch while my wife makes the cocktails.