The History: Curiously, the history of this descendant of the old fashioned starts with the margarita. Bernie Garcia, owner of Moctezuma’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar (a bustling, welcoming spot with Mexican decor and situated on the outside edge of the Southcenter mall), came up with a novel idea in 2014: Perch a “sidecar” bottle containing the drink’s orange liqueur component on the edge of the glass, allowing drinkers to control the amount added to the drink. He patented the concept, and the bottle became a hit.
But the mass-market orange liqueurs, often made with a brandy base, didn’t taste exactly right to him in a margarita. After a year of testing and experimenting with ingredients, Garcia hit upon a recipe for an orange liqueur that he felt was perfect, and Grandeza premium orange liqueur was born. With a neutral grain spirit base sweetened with agave nectar, it tastes of orange citrus with vanilla and caramel accents. With the help of a local distillery, the liqueur became available to the public earlier this year. (You’ll find it in liquor stores and other restaurants.) And while Grandeza makes a margarita sing, bar manager Carlos Avila (formerly Redmond’s Matador, Ballard’s La Isla, among others) and Grandeza vice president Jacob Lawrence have developed other drinks with the liqueur as an ingredient, including the Grandeza Old Fashioned.
The Update: The old fashioned’s traditional whiskey is represented here by Virginia Black, a blend of 2-, 3- and 4-year-old bourbons. Virginia Black, owned by rapper and Drake and DeLeón tequila founder Brent Hocking, makes sense both as a shout-out to Moctezuma’s huge tequila list and because the bourbon’s vanilla, caramel and spice inflections sing in tune with Grandeza.
The Twist: The literal twist here is a wide orange peel, which Avila flames over the drink, caramelizing the orange oil that bursts from the peel, resulting in a deeper citrus note on the nose and palate.
The Final Taste: The Grandeza Old Fashioned is delightfully balanced, composed of layers of orange citrus, vanilla, caramel, spice and light herbal notes from angostura bitters, with a slight bourbon and agave sweetness smoothing out the edges. A Luxardo maraschino cherry provides a final touch.
The Cocktail: Grandeza Old Fashioned
The Bar: Moctezuma’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar
The Bartender: Carlos Avila
Grandeza Old Fashioned
You could try another bourbon when concocting this drink, but if you use a substitute for the Grandeza, you’ll be missing out. Also, stay far away from the neon red chemical bombs often called “maraschino” cherries that you find on many grocery store shelves. Get Luxardo (available at spots like DeLaurenti or Williams-Sonoma), made from sour marasca cherries.
1 1/2 ounces Virginia Black whiskey
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 giant ice cube and a few good-size ones
1 Wide orange peel, for garnish
1 Luxardo maraschino cherry, for garnish
Add the whiskey, orange liqueur and bitters to a mixing glass.
Add a handful of ice cubes. Gently stir for 5–7 seconds.
Add one giant ice cube (or a decent number of good-size ones) to an old fashioned glass. Strain the mix into the glass.
Carefully hold the orange peel, with the peel side facing the mouth of the glass. Light a match and hold between peel and glass (careful!). Then squeeze the peel so orange oil goes through the flame and into the glass.
Add the peel and cherry to the glass.
A.J. Rathbun writes about bars, spirits and cocktails for Seattle magazine and seattlemag.com, and is the author of 11 books, incluing the IACP award-winning Good Spirits. See more at ajrathbun.com.