Simple cocktail is made for the holidays

ASSOCIATED PRESSDecember 8, 2013 

With the exception of a good margarita, I've never been one for mixed drinks. Which doesn't mean I don't like a great cocktail.

I recently learned just how important each element is to making a terrific simple cocktail. Because when you're working with just a few ingredients, everything - even the ice - matters.

I learned this when I visited Mike Hudman, Andy Ticer and Nick Talarico at Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn.

Everything they do in their fused together American Southern and Italian restaurant, they do with care. But the real reason to visit Hog & Hominy is their artisanal cocktail bar, where handcrafted "ice balls" are put to very good use. Under the guise of ordering a drink to try one of their signature BIG ice balls, I asked them to make me whatever cocktail they thought I would like.

Take about attention to detail... The ice balls are made from triple-distilled water and hand-carved by a local ice carver. They are perfectly clear.

The balls fill the whole glass and hardly melt, preventing that awful dilution that cocktail lovers dread.

Talarico set down a beautiful drink of brown "water" and a great waft of fresh orange oil greeted me before I took my first sip. It was their version of an old fashioned.

NICK'S OLD FASHIONED

To make the orange twist, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife and slice a long strip of zest off a clean orange. Avoid the bitter white pith.

Start to finish: 10 minutes; servings: 1

2- to 3-inch strip of orange zest

1 demerara sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon raw sugar)

3 drops orange bitters

1 drop Angostura bitters

1 tablespoon club soda

2 ounces bourbon (or rye)

1 big or 4 normal ice cubs

Twist the orange zest to help release its oils, then rub it along the inside of a tumbler, as well as along the rim. Reserve the zest.

Place the sugar in the bottom of the tumbler. Add both bitters directly to the sugar. Pour the club soda over the sugar to help to dissolve the sugar crystals. Muddle until melted. Add the bourbon and mix. When the mixture is smooth, add the ice. Slide the reserved orange twist into the side of the glass so it sits between the ice and glass. Serve immediately.

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