Hey Food52 fam! I’m Elliott—a huge cocktail nerd and home bartending enthusiast based in Denver, CO. My love for the world of spirits and cocktails started back in 2015 after spontaneously taking a cocktails 101 class at Astor Wine & Spirits in Manhattan. I learned so much in that class: Why you should always use fresh citrus, why you shake a cocktail versus stirring it, why one spirit is better used in a drink than another, why ice matters more than we give it credit for, to name a few.
After that class, I was completely hooked on cocktail making. I traveled back home, went right to Total Wine, and purchased a bunch of bottles I knew nothing about. This started the journey of Apartment Bartender.
At the time, I was working in sales at a software company based in Arizona. After work, I’d rush home to beat the sunset to make a cocktail, photograph it on the little side table by the only apartment window, and post it to Instagram for the purpose of keeping a recipe log.
I say Apartment Bartender happened on complete accident because I had no idea or expectation that making drinks, photographing drinks, and putting myself out there on social media would pave a way for me in the hospitality industry. But I soon discovered a community of people as in love with the world of spirits and cocktails as I am, and that a great drink extended so much further beyond my apartment.
My work has taken me around the world— Scotland, Patagonia, Singapore, Mexico, and all across the United States. I’ve continued learning about spirits, their production process, and everything else that goes into them for the purpose of gaining a deeper appreciation for what we imbibe.
And I’m here to share that all with you!
Starting ya off with my go-to cocktail. It’s a variation on a classic old fashioned, but instead of using bourbon or rye whiskey, I incorporate the spirit of cognac (which is my favorite of all the spirits for so many reasons), a high-quality brandy produced from distilled white wine.
You might be thinking this drink sounds more on the wintery side, but Cognac is a fruit based spirit produced from fermented and distilled grape juice (technically wine), so it comes with a softer touch than most grain based spirits like bourbon.
Incorporating cognac really brightens up a classic old fashioned, and makes it perfect for the summer time (or all year round, really). The demerara syrup, made from equal parts demerara sugar (a large-grained cane sugar with a light-brown hue and a toffee-like flavor) and water, adds a bit of sweetness and caramelly depthness to the mix. And then some orange bitters and Angostura bitters add an herbal aroma, complete with a twist of lemon for citrusy brightness.
So let’s pour ourselves up a drink, relax, and get ready to dive in because we have a lot of mixin’ to do! —Apartment Bartender
Test Kitchen Notes
Apartment Bartender is a column by Elliott Clark, Food52's Resident Bartender and an avid at-home cocktail enthusiast. Elliott's here to help us bring our favorite bar-worthy sips home—and with his spot-on guidance and expert tips, you'll soon be stirring, shaking, and garnishing like a pro. —The Editors
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 1 minute
- Serves 1
- Cognac Old Fashioned
demerara syrup (recipe below)
lemon, for garnish
- Demerara Syrup
- Cognac Old Fashioned
- Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker or large mixing/stirring glass, add ice, and stir to combine.
- Strain the cocktail into a rocks glass over ice.
- Pare a lemon peel, and express the peel over the cocktail (twist the peel with your thumbs and forefingers into a spiral shape) to release the lemon’s essential oils. Then place the garnish into the drink. Enjoy!
- Demerara Syrup
- Combine the demerara sugar and water into a medium saucepan on the stove. Heat the water, and lightly stir to dissolve the sugar (do not bring the water to a boil). Remove from the heat and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.