When the original Cocktail, notably with a capital “C”, was created, it was a noble communion of spirit, sugar, water, and bitters.

If this combination sounds a lot like an Old Fashioned, you would be right because that is exactly what it is. The standard has always been whiskey, but in today’s creative cocktail community, the spirit, the sugar component, and the bitters choice are up for grabs. At Playa Provisions’ bar Grain, the fall menu brings an entire collection of Old Fashioned variations.

Brooke Williamson and Nick Roberts, co-owners and chefs at Playa, love the Old Fashioned. In fact, Williamson, a staunch advocate and passionate lover of whiskey, has been barreling her own bourbons with Heaven Hill distillery for some time. That enthusiasm shone through with the opening of her whisky-forward bar Grain in Playa Del Rey, which offers over 100 types of whiskey including bourbon, Scotch, and rye. With that sort of devotion, it’s not surprise that Grain’s new menu is a mashup of Old Fashioned cocktails.

Speaking to the staying power of the Old Fashioned, Williamson and Roberts observe:

“The Old Fashioned is, in every sense of the word, a classic. Plenty of cocktails are old, but very few enjoy the title of ‘classic’. The classic nature of the drink will keep it around for years to come. It is a drink that everyone does differently, from bar to bar, and bartender to bartender.”

Indeed, the simplicity of this cocktail’s ingredients make it a natural for experimentation, as well as singular preferences. In Wisconsin, if you ask for an Old Fashioned, you will get one made with brandy. In Kentucky, it’s generally bourbon and the cherry and orange will be muddled, likely with a splash of soda water. “The Old Fashioned is infinitely variable which makes it infinitely interesting,” say Williamson and Roberts, who tend to think as a team (they are married as well).

“Change the whiskey, make it rye, make it bourbon, use Scotch, get creative and switch to gin or add brandy. Tinker with bitters, try different brands, different flavors. Infuse it with nuts, cinnamon, bacon, whatever sounds good. As long as people are doing new things with sugar, bitters, and booze, the Old Fashioned will always be relevant.”

This is the philosophy behind Playa’s new old Fashioned menu.

“We tell people to make Old Fashions how they like them,” say Playa’s enthusiastic owners. “Most importantly though, experiment and have fun! Drinks are not supposed to be boring, that’s why we love them.”

Their tips for personalizing your Old Fashioned are as follows:

  1. Start with a base spirit or an idea of what you want the final drink to taste like.
  2. Don’t be afraid of changing rations, substituting spirits or trading out syrups and bitters in the pursuit of the ideal mix.
  3. Take detailed notes so you know how you got to that final perfect combination.
Desert Rose

Desert Rose

Photo Courtesy of Playa Provisions

Desert Rose

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Reposado Tequila, such as Patron or Pura Vida
  • 1/2 oz. Mezcal, such as Kimo Sabe
  • 1/4 oz. Agave Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Ancho Chili Powder, to Rim Glass
  • Rosemary Stalk

Preparation: Light rosemary on fire and cover it with glass, allowing smoke to fill it. Roll one edge of glass in ancho chili powder. Add all other ingredients to old fashioned glass. Add ice cube. Stir to combine.


Fall Fashioned

Fall Fashioned

Photo Courtesy of Playa Provisions

Fall Fashioned

  • 1 oz. Larceny Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Lairds Apple Brandy
  • 1/8 oz. Allspice Liqueur, Such as Allspice Dram
  • 1/4 oz. Cinnamon Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Apple Fan
  • Cinnamon Sugar, for Rim

Preparation: Rim glass with cinnamon sugar. Add all other ingredients, except apple fan, to old fashioned glass. Add ice cube. Stir to combine. Garnish with fan.


High Fashion

High Fashion

Photo Courtesy of Playa Provisions

High Fashion

  • 2 oz. Plymouth Gin
  • 1/4 oz. Elderflower Liqueur, such as St. Germain or Bols
  • 1/4 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 dashes Rhubarb Bitters
  • Garnished with Grapefruit Peel

Preparation: Add all ingredients, except grapefruit peel, to old fashioned glass. Add ice cube. Stir to combine. Garnish with peel.


Jittery Kilt

Jittery Kilt

Photo Courtesy of Playa Provisions

Jittery Kilt

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Highland Scotch, such as Oban or Glenmorangie
  • 1/2 oz. Stump Town Cold Brew Coffee
  • 1/8 oz. Allspice Liqueur, Such as Allspice Dram
  • 1/4 oz. Mace-Infused Simple Syrup
  • 2 dashes Chocolate Bitters
  • Lemon Zest, for Garnish

Preparation: Add all ingredients, except lemon zest, to old fashioned glass. Add ice cube. Stir to combine. Garnish with zest.