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Cocktail Class: 7 questions and a drink with Simon Moorby

UPDATED: Thu., May 18, 2017, 12:57 p.m.

No muddled orange here. No Luxardo Maraschino-soaked cherry, either.

Simon Moorby is an Old-Fashioned purist.

He doesn’t want bits of fruit floating around in his cocktail. He doesn’t want sugar granules collecting in the bottom of a rocks glass.

When he makes an Old-Fashioned, this is what he wants: spirits, bitters, simple syrup he makes in-house using a ratio of two parts sugar to one part water because he likes a thicker “not watery” syrup,” and a large, clear ice cube.

He carves that cube himself.

As for garnish, he cuts and – this is very important – he trims an orange peel, shaping it into a twist. That’s it. That’s all he wants. And it’s everything.

An old-fashioned is everything.

That is, Moorby said, “It’s everything that a cocktail calls for.”

An Old-Fashioned is the mark by which cocktail enthusiasts can and should judge a bartender. It’s also one of the most hotly debated cocktails – “hands down,” Moorby said.

“Everyone has a different philosophy on this particular cocktail,” he said. “I think it’s what separates out experienced, knowledgeable bartenders from someone who’s still feeling out the craft – from a novice.”

Moorby, 38, poured his first drink behind the bar in 2001 at what was then the Blue Note Grill, a jazz and blues bar on North Division Street. These days, he manages Hogwash Whiskey Den, the new whiskey bar in downtown Spokane. Also, these days, “I’m pretty particular about what bartending entails.”

He’s especially particular about Old-Fashioneds.

Rye will make the drink “a little spicier, a little earthy.” He likes his on the sweeter side, so he uses bourbon.

He wants the cocktail to be cold, not diluted. So. He. Makes. His. Own. Ice.

Moorby makes special ice cubes for his Old-Fashioneds, using hot water. It takes longer to freeze that way, and that’s the point. The result is a denser, clearer cube of ice. The denser the ice is, the more slowly it melts – and the less it will dilute your drink.

Moorby uses tap water. But, he said, “I’m sure filtered’s better.”

Still, he said, “As far as I know I’m the only one in town doing this. It’s another technique to take your cocktail to the next level.”

And his Old-Fashioned, well, “It may be the best in town.”

Favorite cocktail to make at home: Because of its simplicity and perfection, it had always been the Old-Fashioned. But, since I quit drinking, it’s either a smoothie or a cup of maté.

Go-to spirits, liqueurs and ingredients: Four Rose Bourbon, amaros and local honey.

Who or what inspired you to become a bartender? It seemed a natural progression for me in the service industry – until I met (bartender and booze writer) Andrew Boher in Bellevue, Washington, in 2009. It was then that I discovered my passion.

Biggest bartending pet peeves: Poor techniques – shaken spirits, not straining, untrimmed garnishes. And poor ice. I could go on and on, but there’s work to do.

At which local bars do you imbibe? There’s some solid efforts at Ruins, Durkin’s, Garageland, Volstead Act, Table 13 and Casper Fry. But I’ll settle for a ginger beer at a show, if I’m not too busy. I quit drinking; April 14, 2015, was my last day.

What bartender or bars do you most admire? I spent five years studying the craft in the Seattle area and experienced a lineage of inspiration. But Jason Saura, now at Navy Strength in Belltown, is a constant student of the craft and a solid human being.

What spirit best represents you? Probably something from Townsend Spirits in Portland. They derive their alcohol from komboucha. “Detox, while you retox,” I always say … sometimes.

Old-Fashioned

From Simon Moorby of Hogwash Whiskey Den

2 ounces Four Roses bourbon

1/4 ounce simple syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

3 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters

1 large, clear and hand-carved ice cube

Orange peel, trimmed and twisted, for garnish

Place first four ingredients in a mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir 20 times in one direction and another 20 times in the other direction. Strain over large, clear, hand-carved ice cube. Express orange oil from peel by squeezing it over the glass. Rub the rim with the peel, then twist and use it for garnish.