How am I holding up, you ask? For a socially-bent barfly, not very well. It’s lonely at my basement bar, it’s not fun drinking by myself, and the music sucks! Plus, the bartender doesn’t have any of the necessary ingredients needed for the most basic of cocktails — like the Old Fashioned.
She did have some fancy Woodford Reserve cherries in the fridge, but they expired years ago. Blasphemy!
As you know, the Old Fashioned is the signature cocktail of Louisville, Ky., as proclaimed by Mayor Greg Fischer a six-pack or so years back. I scoured the city for its best Old Fashioneds a few times in the past while I wrote for the now-defunct Insider Louisville.
If you want to step back in time with me and peruse those lists, here they are. (Unfortunately, the new owners of Insider Louisville repurposed the website and discarded of most of the photos, so it’s just the text. Dumb.)
- Bar Belle: Mr. Mayor, for the key, here are Louisville’s Top 5 Old Fashioneds (Sept. 18, 2015)
- Bar Belle: Merry Christmas, Mayor … here are five more of the city’s top Old Fashioneds (Dec. 3, 2016)
- Bar Belle gives mayor a Christmas miracle: Five more of Louisville’s best Old Fashioneds (Dec. 21, 2017)
Yes, I now realize the list needs updating, and I will focus on that once things open back up, of course. That’ll be what I tackle after making sure I have a job and all.
Anyway, the reason I’m writing today is because I unearthed a shiny Old Fashioned gem while grabbing takeout last week at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen. I won’t lie to you and say I wasn’t there for the incredible bourbon sale they were (and still are) having, but I also enjoyed a filling lunch of hot chicken tenders and a side of ridiculously creamy mac-n-cheese.
While I was there spending way too much money for someone who is unemployed, Merle’s manager extraordinaire Wayne Sweeney talked me into trying a new, pre-made, ready-to-drink Old Fashioned called On The Rocks that was made with Knob Creek. At first I scoffed (secretly), because most pre-made concoctions I’ve tried just aren’t strong enough and have way too much sugar.
But then he mentioned in passing that it was 70 proof.
Wait … what?? Now you have my attention.
You basically just open the little bottle and pour it over ice. You can add your own cherries if you’d like (as long as they’re not expired by more than two years), but the one thing you won’t have to worry about adding is bourbon. The first time I sipped it I was mesmerized. It actually stung my taste buds — in a good way!
The flavoring is spot-on, and it’s a prime example of a great Old Fashioned because it lets the bourbon nab the spotlight, while the simple syrup and bitters take supporting roles. And at 70 proof, this thing will sneak up on you!
My girlfriend, who prefers cider, took a tiny sip and winced like she had just downed a bottle of Tabasco. In my book, that is a successful drink!
Merle’s has them for sale for $12 a pop, or there’s a larger sized bottle that’ll pour four drinks for $40. (I also checked out the website, and it says they’re available at some Kroger liquor stores as well.)
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen is located downtown at 122 W. Main St. They’re doing carryout, cocktail and bourbon sales Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and on Saturday from 5-9 p.m.
Please, please try the mac-n-cheese! You won’t regret it!