I had a bit of an epiphany this weekend while on a pub crawl for my wife’s birthday. Now like many I prefer my whiskey and possibly vodka on the rocks or even neat. But what happens when you want to mix your alcohol? I had always been of the opinion that you can’t mess up a good old fashioned . . . I was wrong!
This weekend I learned to appreciate a good bartender. We started at an amazing bar called Beignets in Spokane Washington. The bartender here named Shawn Heale is someone who truly takes his work to heart. This is a guy that does not look at vodka and whiskey as ingredients, but as part of an art piece. Now I know this may sound dumb, but when you have an old fashioned that is full of flavor but does not a single cherry or slice of orange in the glass you will rethink what drinking is all about.
Later that night we moved to our local famous Piano Bar. Many of you have these in your local towns and I’m not going to lie I’m a sucker for a good Journey song, but tonight I thought I would test something so I ordered an old fashioned. The difference was immediately noticed without even tasting the drink.
The piano bar’s old fashioned was served in a mug had about 3 slices of orange, a few lemon slices, and 4 cherries. At first I thought I was served a fruit salad, but then I realized that this was supposed to be my drink.
Shawn’s old fashioned at Beignets was subtlety sweet but still truly let the whiskey shine. The orange and cherry notes were only hinted at yet rounded out the drink so well that you were sad to take your last sip.
Piano bar’s drink was pure Jack Daniel’s with about a cup of water and 2 cups of simple syrup. Okay so there was not that much, but you can imagine the taste of this thing they served me.
It was Friday night the 13th (go figure) that I realized how amazing REAL bartenders really are. People that crush ice by hand because it creates a better texture, or those that only use fresh squeezed juices so that you do not have preservatives or fake flavors getting in the way.
Shawn I would like to thank you for opening my eyes to this amazing art form and to all the other bartenders like you. Thank you and keep making the world better one drink at a time!