In a historical sense, the Old Fashioned is the Platonic form of a cocktail. Its ingredients comprise spirit, bitters, sugar and water, a cocktail in the truest sense of the word. Originally made with any number of spirits, often brandy, over the decades the idea of an Old Fashioned became codified into including whiskey, generally bourbon. And while the Bourbon Old Fashioned does reign as king even today, there are alternatives. And one such exemplar is the Rum Old Fashioned.
There’s a lot to be said about making your Old Fashioned with an aged rum. Like bourbon it sees time in a barrel, which smooths out its harsher edges, adds notes of vanilla and caramel, and increases its depth and complexity, all of which leads to a beautiful marriage with bitters, some sweetener and orange zest. Also, possibly even more so than with whiskey, using an aged rum means versatility. Want something odd and funky? Try playing with Jamaican rums, many of which possess a funk that is referred to as hogo. Looking for something a little more similar to whiskey? Then opt for a gold rum from Barbados, where rums are often aged in whiskey barrels. Want an Old Fashioned that will knock your socks off? Try it with a navy-strength rum (though you’ll really want to limit yourself to only one if you go this route).
In this version of the drink from Allen Katz, co-founder of New York Distilling Company, it’s more than just the base spirit that gets substituted. The Maple Old Fashioned, as the name would suggest, swaps the more commonly used simple syrup (or sugar cube) for Canada’s greatest export: maple syrup.
When using maple syrup rather than simple, a little goes a long way. The sweetness of maple syrup can vary, so it’s best to to start with less and add more. You can always make a drink sweeter, but unless you want to keep adding more rum, it’s hard to make it less sweet.
While a simple recipe, the versatility of rum in this drink creates some fun opportunity to experiment. Mix a flight of smaller Maple Old Fashioneds—each with a different rum and even different bitters—and decide which is your favorite. Does a darker rum elicit a more satisfying drink? Is a lighter rum better for afternoon quaffing?
And after you tried the Maple Old Fashioned, why not try your hand at one of the many other variations on the classic drink, like a brandy-based Wisconsin Old Fashioned, or one made with brown butter-washed bourbon?
Click Play to See This Maple Old Fashioned Come Together
2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: orange twist
Add the dark rum, maple syrup and Angostura bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.