“Oh, this takes me back.”
It is with this nostalgia filled comment from my mom, Marian, that we truly kicked off our Old Fashioned tasting adventure. I had roped her in a few weeks prior, after deciding I would taste and write about some of the best Old Fashioneds in Lancaster for FLL.
The first cocktail I ever ordered— after a few attempts at beer that ended up with me drinking some watery, amber liquids which were apparently “good” for a first drink—was an Old Fashioned. It was delicious—fruity, rich, and seemingly from a different era. Drinking it made me feel like a much more adult version of myself. Don’t people who order a drink like that have it all together? It seemed that way to me, at least. Despite being a person who tends to avoid brown liquors, the basic Old Fashioned—made by mixing either whiskey or brandy with muddled sugar, bitters, and adding a citrus twist— has become a favorite of mine (at least when it’s in my 20-something budget).
It is with this simple statement that my story direction changed. Senora and Gramps are my great grandparents, who I never had the fortune to meet. They both passed away before I was born. Yet, from my mom and my Great Aunt Mame (with whom I have always had a special connection, as she started watching me while my parents were at work when I was just three months old) and the old family stories I was raised on, Senora and Gramps have become almost mythical characters in our family lore. Senora, especially, loved to tell my mom (her granddaughter) family stories when she visited as their row home in Germantown as a child, and those stories have been passed down to me from my Great Aunt Mame and my mom. These stories have always had a magical quality to me, an almost unnameable sparkle which sets them apart from the average story or history lesson.
I checked with my Great Aunt Mame; her mother’s favorite drink was not an Old Fashioned, but rather a Pink Lady (her version was made by mixing gin, grenadine, and some milk), a drink suitably glamorous for the gregarious woman I have heard so much about. However, my mom remembers the Old Fashioneds, and so with that I asked her to embark on this tasting adventure with me to try a few of Lancaster’s different takes on the classic cocktail and to share with me some of the more magical bits of my family’s history as she remembers it from her childhood adventures with Senora.
For access to the full article, reference page 104 of the Issue 39 pdf.
Photos by Will Marks