At Yours Truly, John Bunner turns the classic cocktail into a boozy education.
Good news for boozehounds in the habit of ordering five drinks at a time: Now you can do so without judgment. At Yours Truly, bar manager John Bunner makes drinking in bulk into an education.
While “flights” of wine allow oenophiles to taste a range of varietals, Bunner’s cocktail sampler comes with a twist: The drinker experiences the evolution of the Old Fashioned over two centuries. “None of these is actually my version of an Old Fashioned,” he says. “But starting with the Whiskey Sling—which I think of as the grandfather of the cocktail—the progression tells a story.”
That story is one of subtle changes. The Whiskey Sling is a slightly spicy rye whiskey drink garnished with nutmeg, which dates back to the colonial days (when it would have been made with rum). The 1862 Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail that follows has significantly more depth of flavour, thanks to bitters and citrus, and is served in a vintage wine glass.
Returning to rocks glasses, the next three iterations get fancier. The 1895 version adds a small spoon and a splash of water; 1949 subs in smooth Canadian whiskey, with orange and cherry garnishes; and 1998 muddles the fruit right in, then tops everything off with soda. It’s the most controversial take, since purists say it transforms a minimalist classic into a hot mess.
Bunner says the fact that there’s no single recipe often comes as a surprise to his patrons, especially those who expect the cocktail to be done “the right way.” “Old Fashioned drinkers tend to be a reactionary bunch, which is part of the fun of making the drink,” he says. “But by seeing all these iterations, she might well realized that there’s no absolutely correct Old Fashioned.”
Most customers come in pairs to split the five-cocktail flight, or make their way through it over a series of visits. But some particularly hardy drinkers will supersize it to an even half-dozen flight, by adding Bunner’s personal version of the Old Fashioned. “I like to use simple syrup, bourbon, and Angostura bitters with a little drop of orange bitters. I build it in the glass with the first few cubes of ice, then add a bit of lemon zest, then the rest of the ice, and then orange zest.” Of course, he wouldn’t say it was the definitive version. But for our money, it’s pretty darn close.
$13 each, or $60 for the flight. 229 Ossington Ave., 416-533-2243.