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Related: Troy Patterson, who’s got the enviable job at Slate of writing about both television and drinking (he gives us an example of the field research the job dictates: “I like mine with rye. Matter of fact, I'm liking mine with rye while proofing this sentence”) has an exhaustive, footnoted essay about the old-fashioned, the classic cocktail that’s a favorite of—among other, nonfiction characters—Mad Men’s Don Draper. Patterson dissects the drink:
The old-fashioned is at once "the manliest cocktail order" and "something your grandmother drank," and between those poles we discover countless simple delights, evolutionary wonders, and captivating abominations. Because of its core simplicity and its elasticity—because it is primordial booze—ideas about the old-fashioned exist in a realm where gastronomical notions shade into ideological tenets. It is a platform for a bar to make a statement, a surface on which every bartender leaves a thumbprint, and a solution that many a picky drinker dips his litmus paper in. You are a free man. Drink your drink as you please. But know that your interpretation of the recipe says something serious about your philosophy of fun.
In the article he works his way through a stack of cocktail recipe books, “using the bottom of an old-fashioned glass as a lens to focus on the soul of each.” It’s well worth a read, if not because it’ll relieve you of the need to read any of the books yourself. If you’re interested in working your way through Patterson’s body of work on the subject of alcohol, start with his collection of recipes for the Pimm’s Cup, “the established tipple of posh summer sport everywhere treasure rhymes with leisure.”