Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Sour Fashioned

The Sour Fashioned

2 ounces cherry brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
½ ounce grenadine
dash orange bitters
2 maraschino cherries 
splash of cherry syrup
1 orange slice
ice and soda water to fill
(stir vigorously)

I spent last weekend up in the Wisconsin Dells with my sister, to celebrate her 40th birthday.  My mom came too.   She and Carrie really wanted to hit the water parks, eat frozen pizza, and get matching multicolored hotel lobby hair weaves.  I insisted we stay at the spa.   So they skipped the water slides this time.  Or did they?  Maybe they both snuck off to rock the Black Anaconda at Noah's Ark while I got my organic facial.  I guess we’ll never know.  

My reasons for choosing the Dells weren't really about my affinity for rural Wisconsin as a vacation destination.  They were about convenience, and my general reluctance to fly.   Oh, I've done it before.  Some readers of this blog may recall that my friend Tara and I went up to the Dells for my 40th birthday.  That was like, two years ago.  Some may also recall that we had an extremely peculiar experience at a local steak house, involving an order of Clams Casino.  

One of the church ladies who works at the spa told me – as I was signing their Pledge of Peace and Quiet – that the steak house is still in business.  It has the same general manager who refused to refund my absent clams.  The woman was actually recommending the place.  I had the weirdest experience of my entire life there, I said, in a barely-audible hushed whisper. I can’t possibly go back.  

She shrugged.  So I dropped it.  It occurred to me only then, that the spa and that restaurant are probably operated the same owners.   Which is probably why, as novices, we ended up there in the first place.   But I'm glad she blew it off because I really didn’t want to continue the conversation.  I tend to get worked up when I recount those events, and I really didn't want to violate the spa pledge.

Fortunately, my sister had a plan for dinner.  As someone who takes an annual vacation in the north woods, by choice – and is married to a man who once injured his knee sneaking up on a trout – she had the whole rural eating scene figured out.  

She took us to this place – Ishnala – a famous old supper club on Mirror Lake.  It was a great place.  Not only because it’s a unique spot, with lots of history.   Not only because it’s decorated with loads of taxidermic wildlife art.  But because the only place I have ever spent more than two hours waiting for a table in a restaurant and then left – without dinner – because I no longer felt like eating, is New York Fucking City.  So, hats off to you Ishnala.   You've still got it.

We did eat a little bit.  After waiting outside for an hour, we decided to have some appetizers.  It was extremely crowded in the bar area so when I saw three chairs open up, I darted across the room to snag them.  I felt slightly guilty for checking some old man into the wall on my way past.  He almost lost his balance, ricocheting off the wall.  But I got the damn chairs, and that's the important thing.  And we got some snacks, and some beer, and a couple of Old Fashioneds.

I don’t mind an Old Fashioned.  I know saying that in Wisconsin is sort of like saying you don’t mind football, or you don’t mind farmers.  I would never say those things.  Because I hate football and I genuinely like most farmers.  Around here, though, the Old Fashioned is very popular.  Most commonly, it's made with brandy (like Korbel, which sells more than a quarter of its supply to Wisconsin alone) or bourbon.  The most basic recipe is  a mixture of the spirit, soda or soda water, bitters, over an orange and a cherry muddled with sugar. 

Mostly, I just don’t care for sweet cocktails.  With all due respect to my sister and her fellow country mice, I definitely don't prefer a drink that contains both soda and white sugar.  I do like brandy, though, and I flat-out LOVE maraschino cherries.  

So I invented my own sour version of the traditional cocktail.  It's made with a local “cherry brandy” made from Door County sour cherries.  I like Yahara Bay Kirschwasser, which isn’t as sweet as a real brandy or cherry liqueur.  In fact, it's kind of... sour.  

Go local with spirits.  Why not?

My Sour Fashioned gets enough sweetness from the maraschino cherry syrup, grenadine, and Cointreau.  I prefer sweetness like this, because it is also flavored and fermented.   

And instead of muddling the orange and cherries with sugar, I muddle them with the syrup and bitters, then add the alcohols and grenadine, fill with ice and soda water, and give it all a good stir.  

I don’t have authentic old fashioned glasses at home.  I just use whiskey glasses, like these. 

whatever, haters.

If you make it at home, let me know what you think.  And happy birthday Carrie and Pete!

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