If you’re at all like me, it’s a treat to show up at a bar to be greeted by a bartender you can trust to know more than you about cocktails. Cocktail lists can be unfamiliar to say the least, ever-changing with what’s fashionable. Last week, in fact, I saw a cocktail list advertising a rum cocktail mixed with, among other oddities, sweet and sour sauce, and a gin cocktail served with carrot and crème fraîche (both of which, I have to admit, were absolutely delicious). However, my point in all this is that it’s nice to take a moment to step out of the fashionable-cocktail-merry-go-round and just relax with a tried and true classic. If that sounds nice to you, then stop in for a drink and a history lesson with Prime Rib bartender Steven Tsoukalas.

Aside from this tasty classic, Prime Rib is also putting out new creative cocktails (see below) and desert options (see the slideshow above for a quick glance).

Classic Old Fashioned (Barrel Aged) - 2 oz. Old Forrester Bourbon - 3 dashes Angostura Bitters - 1/4 oz. simple syrup - Orange twist - Aged 3 months in Old Forrester barrels

The Old Fashioned, as Steven will tell you, is synonymous with the early days of the cocktail. In fact, the earliest printed reference to the Old Fashioned in 1806 also includes the first printed definition for “cocktail”. In those days, you either ordered your favorite spirit or you ordered punch, and punch was declining in popularity. The phrase “cocktail” was a generic term for mixing your spirit with water and sugar. You could have a gin cocktail, bourbon cocktail, vodka cocktail, etc.  At the time, bitters were thought of as medicinal, so you might add a few dashes for your health. Thus, the “Old Fashioned” is a term used by the veteran drinkers to describe their preferred Bourbon sling, referring to the original proto-cocktails of their youth in the face of new-fangled cocktails like the Manhattan, the Mojito, the Adonis, and the like. The Old Fashioned is a necessarily traditionalist cocktail, looking back to the days leading up to the modern American cocktail list. However, Steven is both a cocktail historian and an innovator, who believes - like Søren Kierkegaard - that, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Steven’s most recent concoction, the barrel-aged cocktail series at Prime Rib, takes the Old Fashioned and improves upon it, adding oaky tannins and depth to a time-honored favorite. It’s a happy marriage of past and present.

Steven and Prime Rib (7002 Arundel Mills Cir #7777, Hanover, MD 21076) will be continuing to experiment with barrel aging, and when you go to visit, you can expect new classics every new season. When you go, be sure to ask him about why the Manhattan is “the most important cocktail in the world” and tell him Jeremy sent you.


Photos courtesy of Prime Rib