The other night, when it was particularly chilly, I demanded to swing by Big Bear Cafe for a hot toddy. It was, in fact, pretty much the thing around which I organized my whole evening. There are plenty of places that will make you a very good hot toddy, but ever since they featured their Jamaican version a few weeks ago, I have been hooked on getting them from Big Bear.
The thing about hot toddies is, though, no matter how hard you try to photograph them, they just look like tea. Also, I have not yet precisely isolated what I like so much about Big Bear’s, so I do not have much to report. What I can report on, however, is the other cocktail I sipped that night – one of the originals off their current cocktail menu – the Old Gold.
While not a warm beverage like a toddy, the Old Gold still has a dark, rich flavor suitable for the season. Based on an El Dorado rum which is a blend of oak-cask aged Demerara rums and house-made coffee bitters (Big Bear is first and foremost a coffee shop, after all, and they use their Counter Culture beans for these), the drink is finished with a touch of brown sugar and a twist of orange.
Essentially, as the “Old” in the name may imply, this is an Old Fashioned, but with each of the elements tweaked just a touch to add a new profile. Now, it may be breaking no new ground to say that rum, coffee, and orange all love each other – but some flavor combinations are classics for a reason.
Most of all, this drink taps into what has become one of my core feelings the more cocktails I drink and write about: Just because you can make a Baroque drink with thirty-eight ingredients and foam and sorbet and what-not does not always mean you should. Often, taking something very simple and just executing it well with fresh, home-made, great ingredients will give you a far better result. Simple does not have to mean boring or unoriginal any more than just being complicated makes something delicious.