Getty; Inset: Courtesy Alie and Georgia
Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, a.k.a. Alie & Georgia, host Cooking Channel food-travel series Tripping Out with Alie & Georgia. Visit PEOPLE.com every Thursday for their playful spins on celebrity recipes, cocktails, entertaining ideas—and, of course, lots of laughs!
When it comes to romance, maybe you love the old-fashioned type. Or maybe you’ve been left stiff and bitter. Either way, we’re here to help this Valentine’s Day by spicing up your relationship with one of the oldest cocktails in the books: the stiff, bitter Old Fashioned. See what we did there?!
Note: This is not your traditional pink, bubbly, foofoo Valentine’s Day drink. Folks who love a good OF already know that they’ve been around since the early 1800s and are traditionally made by soaking a sugar cube with two dashes of bitters, adding a tiny splash of water, and stirring until the sugar dissolves. Next, a large ice cube and a strong spirit, usually bourbon, are added. It’s stirred until well-chilled, then garnished with a citrus rind.
If you’d like to watch a Ryan Gosling making one in a clip that is 100% cocktail hotness, your wish is hereby fulfilled. Watch to the end to learn how NOT to drink an Old Fashioned.
Okay, so whether you’re sipping this drink with your soulmate or drowning your bitter sorrows alone, it’s always fun to shake things up with some variations. Note: Never ever shake an Old Fashioned. Like love, this drink is delicate and must be stirred so as not to bruise or water down the spirit. So many metaphors! Are you having an epiphany about romance yet? Or are you just replaying that Ryan Gosling clip over and over? Thought so, ladies.
So here are our favorite ways to change things up a bit, while still honoring the legacy of the Old Fashioned:
Swap the Spirit. While tradition calls for Kentucky bourbon, there are no hard rules on what liquor to use. Some folks make Old Fashioneds with brandy, which gives it a lovely sweetness. But a nice caramel-y aged rum would be a delicious option as well. You could even make a bright, smokey Old Fashioned by using a quality añejo tequila. (Still sip it like a classy person. No shooting this one, tiger.)
Spice up the Sugar. Some people like to use a little lump of brown sugar rather than white, since it adds a subtle molasses taste to the cocktail. But you can also eschew the sugar lump and opt for a teaspoon or two of a flavored simple syrup instead. We love making a simple syrup with Chinese Five Spice blend and using that in a rum Old Fashioned. A vanilla simple syrup would be great with bourbon, and a lavender simple syrup would pair wonderfully with a tequila Old Fashioned, especially if a grapefruit rind were tucked in as a garnish.
Switch out the Citrus. That brings us to: citrus. We love swapping the customary orange peel garnish for a grapefruit peel or even a curl of lime rind. Kumquats are also in season during the winter, and one muddled with the sugar and bitters makes for a sweet tart bite at the end of the drink. (Yep, you can eat that, rind and all. Or you can feed it to your lover if you’re the kind of couple that feeds each other things with your fingers and never gets invited to our dinner parties.)
Embrace the Bitter. Now, love wouldn’t be so sweet if you hadn’t tasted some bitter pain, and an Old Fashioned wouldn’t taste right without those two requisite dashes of bitters. The most commonly used brand is Angostura, which is a potent tincture made from the bark of the angostura tree and other botanicals. But these days, a glut of wonderful artisanal bitters have hit the market. The Fee Brothers offer rhubarb, celery, orange and plum bitters. Other companies make chocolate bitters, spicy bitters, jerk bitters; it’s just a great time to get bitter, people. So think about picking up a few options to add a new profile to your Old Fashioned, and keep things interesting.
Like love, just see what works best together and feel free to experiment and play around. You never know where it might get you.
Also, don’t drink too many of these and text all your exes on Valentine’s Day. Unless one of your exes is Ryan Gosling and you’re giving him our numbers. No? Okay.
Alie & Georgia