This was one of the first drinks I ever created when I was bartending at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in the late 2000s. Back then, Japanese whisky was much less coveted (and a lot more available) than it is now, and I developed the drink using Yamazaki 12-year single malt. Now, thanks to its sudden rise in popularity, that particular whisky is nearly impossible to find, and prohibitively expensive when found. Fortunately, Japanese whisky producers have been hard at work in the last decade to develop younger, blended whiskies )such as Suntory’s Toki) that are becoming widely available and priced well enough that we can use them in cocktails such as this fairly straightforward Old-Fashioned variation.
When I first tasted Japanese whisky, I was struck by its woody perfume and incense notes. To bring that out in this drink, I infused simple syrup with fennel seeds. Normally, an Old-Fashioned would be made with a straightforward, unflavored sugar syrup like simple syrup or demerara syrup, but here we use the blender (aka my favorite at-home bar tool) for a rapid infusion.
In another departure from the classic recipe, the Mountainside uses only orange bitters. Bitters are an important ingredient in a lot of cocktails because they can provide an impressive amount of aromatic complexity as well as a bitter “backbone” to help give the drink structure. The most common bitter for an Old-Fashioned is Angostura aromatic bitters. With its intense gentian and clove notes, it would be overpowering for this drink, so here we’re just using orange bitters. There are few different producers of orange bitters, but my favorites are Angostura’s or Bitter Truth’s. —John deBary
- Prep time 5 minutes
- Serves 1
- Mountainside Cocktail
Japanese whisky, such as Suntory's Toki
fennel syrup (recipe below)
Grapefruit peel, for garnish
- Fennel Syrup
(30g) whole fennel seeds
prepared simple syrup
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass or shaking tin. Add ice and stir gently for 20 seconds. Strain into an old fashioned glass with a large clear ice cube (see below for how to DIY one). Garnish with a grapefruit peel expressed over the top of the drink, and then perched on the rim of the glass.
- For fennel syrup: Combine whole fennel seeds with simple syrup in a blender. Blend on high for three minutes until the . Strain through a fine-mesh strainer—the finest you own, such as a gold coffee filter. This mixture will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks, or frozen for up to six months.
- For a large, clear ice cube: Line an insulated mug with straight sides with a plastic bag and fill halfway with water. Let freeze for at least 36 hours. Once ice is completely frozen, remove mug from the freezer and let thaw for a few hours, until you can slide the bag out of the mug without much effort. Run the ice cube under cold water to polish any rough edges.