Whiskey or whisky? That is the question. If Don Draper were answering he’d clearly call for whisky, which is how Canadian Club, his preferred brand, spells it. The American usage is “whiskey,” but Canadian Club, which hails from Ontario, uses the Scottish spelling, “whisky.” This explains why a bottle of Jack Daniels from Tennessee says “whiskey” on the label and a bottle of Glenfiddich, distilled in Dufftown, Banffshire says “whisky.” It was enough to give the proofreader for The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook fits.
There are many types of whisky/whiskey. Bourbon is a corn-based spirit distilled to no more than 160 proof (80 percent alcohol) and aged at least two years. Tennessee whiskey is similar, but is filtered through sugar maple and charcoal. Rye makes a lighter flavored, but still full bodied whiskey and is often blended with other whiskeys to make a final product. Such blended whiskeys are often simply called “rye” despite the additional ingredients. Canadian Club is such a blended whisky, made of corn, rye, rye malt, and barley distillates. Almost all whiskeys are aged for years in charred wooden barrels to add flavor and are typically 80 to 100 proof. And what is malt? Malt is cereal grains made to germinate by soaking them in water, and then dried with hot air.
Though Seagram’s and Crown Royal were also popular in the 1960s, Don’s fealty to Canadian Club is admirable: an ad man has to have a brand, whether it’s the cigarette he smokes or the whisky he sips morning ‘till night.
Seagram’s Seven Crown was an “American whiskey blend” distilled and blended in Connecticut by the Canadian company, Seagram’s, and Seagram’s V.O. was a blended Canadian whisky made in Canada. Crown Royal is a blended Canadian whisky distilled and blended in Canada by The Crown Royal Company of Connecticut. (Both the Seagram’s and Crown Royal brands are now owned by the British firm Diageo.) If this all sounds terribly confusing, remember this: if you’re drinking whisky it’s almost certainly from Scotland or Canada and if you’re drinking whiskey, it is just as certainly from the United States. And if you’re drinking Canadian Club you can be sure it was distilled and blended in Canada by a Canadian company that knows its whisky.
Now that we have that cleared up, if you’re not sipping your whisky (or whiskey) straight (or “neat,” as Roger Sterling might say), you may want to mix yourself Don’s favorite cocktail, an Old Fashioned. There have been many variations over the years with much attention paid to how to dissolve the sugar: some say water, others seltzer, and still others the bitters. The first recipe calling for orange and cherry together, as part of the cocktail itself and not simply a garnish, appeared in 1933, but various recipes have incorporated orange curaçao, pineapple, lemon peel, simple syrup (instead of sugar), and even Absinthe.
There is no definitive Old Fashioned recipe, but if Don were making it, he’d almost certainly use his “beloved rye,” as Roger once described it (season 1, episode 7; “Red in the Face”). And he loved no rye more than Canadian Club. (Bourbon can also be used.) Our recipe for an Old Fashioned in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook is courtesy of the legendary Grand Central Oyster Bar located inside New York’s Grand Central Station.
The classic recipe for Don Draper's preferred Old Fashioned Cocktail, from one of his favorite Mad Men haunts: The Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York, New York.
- Note: Bourbon or rye may be used in the Old Fashioned. Rye was originally used, and the Grand Central Oyster Bar is starting to use rye again in these drinks; they use Michter’s, but Don would, as noted, likely choose Canadian Club.
- 1 orange slice
- 1 maraschino cherry
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Few drops of Angostura bitters
- A splash of soda water to muddle ingredients
- 2 ½ ounces rye or bourbon
- In a mixing glass, muddle orange slice, cherry, sugar, bitters and a little soda water: using a muddler, push around and break up cherry and orange until flavor is released.
- Add soda water so cherry is wet and sugar is melted. Add bourbon or rye and serve over rocks, if desired.
Another terrific Canadian Club recipe is Canadian Clubhouse Punch, but you’ll have to wait for The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook for that recipe. We expect to be serving this flavorful punch at some of our book events. If you’re in the area stop by and we’ll make a toast to the upcoming season of Mad Men.