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Ask John Neely Bryan: What’s the Right Way to Order an Old-Fashioned?

Drinking drinks the Dallas way.
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Photo: Sam Howzit/Flickr
John Neely Bryan, Our Founder
John Neely Bryan, Our Founder

Firstly, my humblest apologies for leaving you all — devoted readers — in the lurch last week whilst I skedaddled to obtain a measure of recreation and relaxation. One of the prime benefits of noncorporeal existence is that there’s no need to pay those blood-sucking fares that the airlines charge. Believe me, instantaneous quantum transport is the only way to fly!

But I return now to my Sisyphean duty: solving all of the world’s most pressing quandaries.

Question: With so many cocktail variations popping up every day — the rise of the mixologist is upon us! — it’s becoming more and more difficult to order a drink properly, without fumbling around with a barrage of follow-up questions and combinations to consider. Since you’re staggeringly old, can you tell me the proper way to order an Old Fashioned, so as to minimize the drama? — Travis S.

Sir, I am in the midst of my 215th year on this planet — my 138th post-burial — and yet you seem to be far more behind the times than am I. “Mixologist” is so 2011. Please, the gent proffering alcoholic beverages at your neighborhood tavern is but a humble barkeep.

Compounding your display of ignorance, “mixology” didn’t originate in Dallas. It’s one of those pretentious trends of recent years borrowed from some inferior city and which brought with it awful facial hair and stupid hats. I’ve been saddened to see our beloved city thus repeatedly debase itself, acting in a manner unbecoming of its status as the shining light of western civilization.

Dallas should embrace its superior otherness rather than chase after the same unremarkable fads that have already come and gone elsewhere. You know, I was moved to a state of melancholic fever several weeks back following a similar realization at a city magazine convention that took place downtown. Somehow I’d been left off the list of nominees for the organization’s annual awards — despite my unparalleled efforts in this space — so I made my way to the Omni to lodge an official protest. Whilst there, I happened upon a table of printed material from all around the United States, including far-flung hinterlands with such fanciful names as “Seattle” and “Boston.” Based on what I saw there, the entire nation has been overrun by “craft beer,” “artisanal ice cream,”  and “locally sourced” rigmarole. Ignore the titles of the various publications — usually the names of urban centers — and each cover looked as though it could have originated in any of the other metropolitan zones. Where was the local flavor? Where’s the celebration of each city’s unique identity? I nearly began to weep as I stared at this bland tableau of sameness.

I mean, really. Who — aside from those possessing the deepest of character flaws — gives a damn about brunch? What’s so great about it? Waiting an hour and a half for a couple of eggs with a side of cantaloupe? Yet to listen to the droning voices of this country’s regional magazine editors it’s the greatest thing since my buckeye wine.

Returning to the specifics of your question, it’s important to note that you needn’t concern yourself with the specific ingredients your barkeep puts into your old-fashioned. This cocktail is made in varying combinations of bitters and sugar and whiskey. The Cedars Social is using cherry and black walnut, the Mansion tries it with Dr Pepper. Whatever. Tasting drinks is best left to the fairer sex.

As a man, here’s what you do. You sidle up to the bar and say, “I want an old-fashioned — shaken, not stirred.” If the barkeep looks like he’s about to give you lip, just raise your hand to cut him off, make strong (menacing, if necessary) eye contact and repeat, “Shaken, not stirred.” If the fellow still won’t shut up and make your drink, just stand in silence and stare at him. He’ll get the picture. You might even score one on the house.

Raising you up on eagle’s wings,
John Neely Bryan is the founder of the city of Dallas and an expert on all matters. Email him for advice, to have a dispute adjudicated, or to seek his wisdom on any of a myriad of topics, at [email protected].

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