Our sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine recently set out to find the city’s most Instagrammable cocktails. One of its finds is the Smoked Old Fashioned from Amway’s recently opened Rendezvous bar. The cocktail is a fun spin on the classic Old Fashioned, which it turns out, is the original cocktail.
GR|MAG spoke with Rendezvous’ restaurant manager Nick Walsh to learn more about the Old Fashioned. If you want to know which of the city’s cocktails made the cut for “most Instagrammable” be sure to pick up January’s issue on newsstands.
GR|MAG: What’s the history of the Old Fashioned? Do you know when it was first created and where?
Nick Walsh: The Old Fashioned was the first cocktail to ever be created, becoming a classic drink before the term “cocktail” had even been coined. The definition of cocktail is “a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water and sugar,” which perfectly describes the Old Fashioned.
The Old Fashioned was created in the United States in the 18th century and was already considered a classic drink by the time the term cocktail came to be the new reference for a mixed drink in the year 1806. This drink is the backbone of the cocktail industry still today and was being built and served to guests, decades before ice was even a commodity found in local watering holes.
GR|MAG: What do you think sets the Old Fashioned apart from its counterparts from the same time period and has given it such longevity?
NW: Being the first cocktail in history, the Old Fashioned is the benchmark for all future classics. It is such a well-balanced cocktail, allowing the base spirit to stand out with subtle compliments of sweet and citrus notes to bring it all together. By having so much balance, complexity and flexibility, the Old Fashioned has always been a stand out cocktail, dating back to the 18th century.
The Old Fashioned is the reason that many other great cocktails have been created. It is referred to as a simple cocktail as it only has three ingredients, meaning most bars have always had all of the tools necessary to create this drink.
GR|MAG: At Rendezvous, you offer a Smoked Old Fashioned, which is a pretty fun and impressive drink. What is the difference between a Smoked Old Fashioned and the traditional presentation? How does adding smoke enhance the drink?
NW: At Rendezvous, our Old Fashioned is built the exact same way as the traditional recipe: bitters, sugar, Bourbon whiskey and orange zest. This is the original recipe that dates back hundreds of years and we want to showcase this timeless classic.
Our twist comes into play with the addition of hickory smoke. With the use of a few sophisticated tools and by the hands of our talented bar staff, the depth and complexity of the Old Fashioned is enhanced. By allowing the cocktail to rest in the hickory smoke, it adds a great aroma and a pleasing flavor profile that enhances the charred oak notes from the bourbon.
GR|MAG: Is this something individuals can create at home or do they need to come to Rendezvous for the drink?
NW: With the proper tools and training our guests can definitely season cocktails with smoke in the comfort of their own homes to impress their guests. We do encourage everyone to visit Rendezvous in the evening to allow our talented team to showcase this drink first hand. They are always sure to answer any questions regarding the process and to provide step-by-step instructions to those that would like to know more.
Leave it to the professionals to create our delicious Smoked Old Fashioned, but don’t be shy because this drink is no secret and we will gladly share our techniques to better the guest experience.
GR|MAG: What do you think pairs well with a Smoked Old Fashioned?
NW: The Smoked Old Fashioned is a great pair with our Rendezvous Melt as well as our charcuterie offerings. The savory qualities of each of these dishes are a perfect pair with the crisp and vibrant flavors of the Smoked Old Fashioned. Each item brings out the best in each other.
Be sure to inquire with our talented servers, bartenders and culinary staff for professional recommendations regarding the best food and drink pairings. Our menu allows for a lot of flexibility and freedom for our guests to create a personalized meal just for them.