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Local Libations: The Bitter Sweet Fashion

2011 March 4

By Kat Durant

Last week Andrew brought the clever C.C. Pass to the relay. His  journey in creating the perfect cider cocktail got my wheels turning – the challenges of creating a traditional drink while trying to source ingredients as locally and seasonally as possible, while also upholding a respectful flavor and cocktail experience can be exhausting. It’s a balance between convenience, intention and a will to experiment. Andrew’s breakdown purchase of the California lemon made me feel so fortunate to have access to a wealth of citrus oozing from nearly every yard in my neighborhood.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

This week I have taken inspiration from Andrew’s use of bitters and California citrus to recreate a traditional favorite: The Old Fashioned. My hope was to take the typical combination of sugar, bitters, bourbon and a twist of citrus to the next level by way of a some beautiful blood oranges shared by my new neighbor. The tone had been set – deep, sunset like pink-y reds of the blood oranges sparked visions of an amped up Old Fashioned.

I decided to play by developing a signature sweetness for my variation of this traditionally sweet libation. I couldn’t avoid the use of a  sugar cube – it wouldn’t be an homage to the traditional if I didn’t but, I had just put my hands on a tasty port that I thought would feed my sweet curiosities. This may be considered Andrew’s California lemon of the recipe, as this delicious, not too sweet, raisin-y goodness in a bottle came from Portugal – Fonseca Bin Number 27. A buy that is actually more local to Andrew than me. Now I am sure, you, where ever you, are could find a more locally sourced fortified wine for your drink making needs but, this is just what I already had… and it tasted really good!

To ensure my desired sweetness I chose Peychaud’s Bitters – dating back to the 1830’s, it’s a gentian – based bitters known for its tonic properties long before it’s common addition to cocktails. This particular bitter is the all important ingredient to the Sazerac cocktail, a local New Orleans variation of the Old Fashioned. Peychaud’s is sweeter and a more floral bitter with just a hint of honey.

My bourbon selection:  Evan Williams, was fueled by my more recent obsession of this aged caramel-y spirit. Since my unexpected love of bourbon developed I have been on a bit of bourbon expedition, trying whatever is new or  more truthfully, anything that happens to cross my path. Evan Williams is the original Kentucky distiller specializing in small batch and single barrel production. This bourbon was just the right amount of sweet (not as sweet as many others) for my variation of the Old Fashioned.

The Bitter Sweet Fashion

Yield: 1 serving

Tools: muddler, oz glass, stir stick or spoon, glass, knife


  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 tsp bitters
  • 2 oz. port wine
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 2 slices blood orange

Cooking Directions

  1. Place sugar cube in glass and soak with bitters.
  2. Add 2 slices of of blood orange to sugar and bitters.
  3. Add the whiskey.
  4. Muddle the sugar, bitters, orange and bourbon.
  5. Add the port.
  6. Add crushed ice.
  7. Top with club soda (add desired amount)
  8. Stir gently and enjoy!