Last updated on July 8th, 2020
Everything old is new… fashioned again.
Every spring, I start off with tons of green thumb ambition, then get lazy and quit pulling weeds by August. Things end up growing where they shouldn’t go, and unidentifiable stalks of green take over.
But there’s one fragrant patch that keeps getting bigger and healthier every year: a gloriously spreading tangle of mint that’s slowly taking over the front yard. For once, my half-hearted gardening is paying off!
See, mint is a medicinal herb, and technically a weed.
Sitting on the porch, thinking of ways to use up all this herbal bounty, I realized that mint is something of a kissing cousin to one of the most essential cocktail accoutrements: bitters.
What are bitters? A slow-simmered blend of alcohol and various herbs, spices, bark, roots, and plants, bitters impart—yes—a bitter flavor to cocktails.
Though originally intended as a medicinal tonic to aid with digestion and stomach issues, the fact that the plant matter is slowly steeped in strong spirits gives bitters a loopy but pleasing side effect.
The obvious move for these two herbal digestives, then, is to bring them together in a boozy concoction.
An Old Fashioned is one of the oldest cocktails in the book, pairing rye or bourbon, bitters, and sugar with fresh orange and cherry. Why not sub in orange bitters and add a little herbal action in the form of mint?
It could work… and it did.
I muddled the mint with simple syrup to release its essential oils, then gently stirred in rye and orange bitters to finish the drink. It’s that simple.
Need to update your bitters collection to make a New Fashioned Cocktail? It’s simple enough to pick up a bottle of orange bitters at your local liquor store or online.
The most readily available commercial brands of orange bitters are:
For yet another New Fashioned cocktail variation, Stirrings makes blood orange bitters that are nonalcoholic and a bit sweeter than the holy trinity above, bringing echoes of the classic cherry taste back to an unconventional drink.
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves + more for garnish if desired
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) simple syrup
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) rye or bourbon
- 1/4 teaspoon (about 6 dashes) orange bitters
- orange wheels for garnish, optional
- cherries for garnish, optional
- Place the mint leaves in a pint glass or bar mixing pitcher and top with the simple syrup.
- Using a muddler or the base of a whisk or wooden spoon, gently crush the mint to release its essential oils.
- Fill the glass or pitcher halfway with ice and add the rye or bourbon and bitters. Stir to combine.
- Fill two rocks glasses with ice and divide the drink between the glasses, using a strainer if necessary to keep the muddled mint and stirring ice in the mixing glass.
- Garnish with additional mint leaves, orange wheels, and/or cherries as desired.