The Old Fashioned is, well, old-fashioned. But it’s also a drink experiencing a resurgence, in part thanks to its role in the dearly departed television series Mad Men. The drink, in a way, is a perfect metaphor for star character Don Draper: Its appearance is handsome, even bright. And it drinks with that edge that only rye whiskey offers, with a touch of well-worn sweetness.
A handful of spots in town serve a delicious Old Fashioned, including the Can Can and the Virginia Inn. But down in Pioneer Square, the Old Fashioned at Damn the Weather (116 First Ave.) has a little more going on than the original.
Like Don Draper, the cocktail has a few secrets you might not guess from the outset. For one, bar manager Aaron Kimmel uses both Haitian and Jamaican rum mixed with a house rye whiskey, giving the classic cocktail a subtle makeover and a nuanced blend without straying too far from the intended recipe: rye, sugar, and bitters. It’s served with one big rock (a one-inch-by-one-inch ice cube) and a slice of orange peel that almost looks like a sunny grin looking up at you from the glass.
And maybe the most important part? The cherry. Even if you craft the most expert Old Fashioned, if the cherry is that bright-red thing you get in Shirley Temples, it will throw the whole thing off. Nothing to fear here: Damn the Weather uses Griotte cherries from France, which are delicious. They have a nice pop in the fruit’s skin and a delectable mushiness in the middle. The result is a drink that easily meets or surpasses any of its competitors.
“It’s a simple drink,” says Kimmel. “We are just trying to offer it as it was intended. It’s classic. Spirits, bitters, sugar, a little water, and maybe some citrus oils.”
Damn the Weather may not be the smoky basement bar off the beaten path where Don Draper would go for a little anonymity, but at a table in the dim light of the restaurant, exposed brick all around, the sounds of motorcycles and bar-hoppers flickering in through the open doorway, sipping an Old Fashioned here seems like a welcome privilege.
With its upscale decor and a menu that is quintessential Northwest chic—refined salads and high-end fish plates—Damn the Weather entertains a clientele that, especially on a Saturday night, is fancy and ready to have fun. Across the room a tech couple celebrates a one-year anniversary, and nearby a bachelorette party is dressed all in Santa suits. Cocktails abound, but the sophisticated drinker will find the Old Fashioned and, with a confident smile, order it.
It’s a drink, and an experience, meant to be savored. Bite the cherry, slide it off the toothpick. Put your lips to the glass, sip the rye-bitter and slightly sweet drink. Place the glass on the table and admire the person sitting across from you. Maybe you just discovered the best tag line in the history of advertising, or maybe you just realized you’re in love. Either way, it will be highlighted by Damn the Weather’s consummate, classic version of maybe the best cocktail on the planet: the one, the only, the classic Old Fashioned.
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