Body Preservation: Bourbon Old-Fashioned (with honey)

A while back, I took it into my head that I should challenge my taste buds by expanding my liquor collection. Over the years, I had fallen into a boring vodka sour / margarita / cheap American beer routine. As a former bartender, I was ashamed of myself.

When I got to the liquor store, I knew I wanted to avoid stunt drinks. I have little patience for ridiculously high-proof booze. I don’t want to hide the flavor of a good spirit under cloying fruit flavors. And I don’t feel the need to blend anything. When I came to the bourbon aisle, my little writer’s heart went ka-thump.

Yes, I thought, bourbon. Elegant. Stately. Classic. Featured in any number of great Southern Gothics. 

I discussed brands and quality with the owner of the shop, and came away with a mid-priced bottle and strict instructions to drink it straight, or – if absolutely necessary – over the rocks.

A few days later I gave it a go. A nasty liquor-shiver seized me at the first taste. My palate just can’t handle that much … booziness. I filled the glass to the rim with ice and waited for much of it to melt. Once the water / bourbon ration was about even, I could drink it, but I didn’t much like it.

As I sipped, I realized that there were some interesting, even pleasant, notes of flavor under all that alcohol. It was somehow autumny. There was a dry edge, almost like woodsmoke. And there was a complex kind of sweetness that I couldn’t immediately identify. When I tasted again, trying to isolate that almost familiar flavor, I was reminded of honey.  I jumped up and took my drink to the kitchen, intent on intensifying that note.

I promptly learned that honey does not readily dissolve in a cold mixture. I stirred and stirred until the flavors blended. It was much improved, and I was able to finish it, but it was still missing something.

Tonight, as I was putting away some spices I’d used to make dinner, I spied the bottle of aromatic bitters on my pantry shelf. I decided to go after the bourbon again.

This time I knew I’d have to melt the honey before I chilled the drink. Here’s what I tried:

  • 1 scant tablespoon of honey
  • 1 shot glass of hot water (from my Kurig machine)
  • Stir until honey is melted.
  • 1 shot glass of very cold water
  • 1 shot glass of bourbon
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • Stir.
  • Add 4 ice cubes.

It was delicious (though a little too sweet for me – next time I’ll reduce the honey.)

When I settled in to write this post (with my newly invented cocktail at my side) I idly googled “bourbon honey bitters”.

Do you already know the punchline to this?

It turns out, I invented an old-fashioned. (Though according to the purist view of the linked article, I should admit this is a variation of the classic cocktail. I can’t claim originality for my honey innovation, because I’m certainly not the first person to try it. Plus, I’m pretty sure Mr. Doudoroff would have kittens if he knew how much water I used.

Still, the structure is mostly in place, and I am pretty proud of how I got there.

PS: Be assured that my mixologist’s memories faded from my mind long ago. If this was a case of remembering a recipe I once knew, it was entirely unconscious.


This recipe is from the category:  Decadent / Gorgeous Food (Click the link to learn more about my general food philosophy.)


Me and my creations.

Me and my creations.

It’s been a busy weekend. The Anoka Walking Dead Crawl was great fun and there will photographs later this week. Right now, I’m going to go enjoy my old-fashioned (variation) while soaking in a hot bath. ‘Night all.

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23 Comments on “Body Preservation: Bourbon Old-Fashioned (with honey)”

  1. A Duet says:

    My friend, had we but known, I would have steered you in that direction from the get-go. Bourbon and I are quite close, especially with the biting frosts of fall upon us!

  2. Hunter Shea says:

    I’ve been looking for something other than beer to get me through long nights at my keyboard. I’ll definitely give this a try. I love a good gin and tonic, but it’s amazing how difficult something so simple can be to make.

    • Ooh. Gin. There’s another one I know as a tender, not a taster. It smells like juniper berries, right? I might have a bottle of that in the back of the cupboard.

      And, yes, that’s the truth of a “simple” cocktail recipe. So easy to burn it or water it down too much.

  3. Reminds me of the reactions I had when I first started making my own traditional version of Martha Stewart’s egg nog for New Years Eve. I had to cut the bourbon, cognac (I’d never had either of those before), and rum IN HALF!! And I think I double the milk or cream to make up for it. Even then it’s really strong. I’d have to work really hard at enjoying straight liquor. Ick. But I’ve mastered it and have loved my egg nog for 5 years now.

    • I’m trying this right now, though the grocery store didn’t have bitters. I must say, I think I’m going to save bourbon for egg nog only. 🙂

    • Will you be posting the recipe around Christmas time? I’ve never had egg nog in any form. Not even an ice cream. Which is weird, because I love custard, and that’s pretty much the same ingredients, right?

      • I’m sure it’s similar. Martha used to always have it searchable on her website. Thats a good idea to share it. I’m telling you though, she must be a big boozer… I cut it in half or more and it’s still super strong. 🙂 You have to prepare the egg part ahead of time, separating them, adding sugar and stuff, chilling. Then you add cognac, rum, bourbon, milk and cream, whipped up egg whites, then adding homemade whipped cream dollops on top (I add tons of sugar to the cream.) Then sprinkle nutmeg. I’m sure I’m missing something.

  4. I’m not crazy about drinking liquor straight, and am usually too busy scrunching up my face to notice hints of woodsmoke and honey. But man, add some sour mix, and I’m in my happy place!

  5. echofayd says:

    My favorite go to when the chill hits is a good Port. I’ve had a Vintage Port which is hard for myself to come by, but if you have the time and money (or luck) they are the best. My next go to is a Ruby Port. There’s also Tawny but it’s a little too harsh, although people will tell you it’s the lighter of the two. Of course it comes down to your personal taste. Happy toasting!

    • OK, here’s the question: is port basically a red wine? I ask because, unfortunately, I just don’t like the taste of the reds – too tannic, I think.

      • echofayd says:

        It is a fortified wine, traditionally with Brandy. This was done when long voyages on ships would spoil wine, so it was fortified to save it, which in turn creates a sweeter and mor alcoholic wine. I understand the harshness of tannins, but a good Ruby Port is sticky sweet. The high alcohol content gives balance to the richness though, and warms the insides while slowly sipped on a cold day 😉

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