The Mountainside is an Old Fashioned-adjacent cocktail that comes courtesy of Guest Bartender John deBary. John started his bartending career at Please Don’t Tell, a now-classic NYC speakeasy hidden behind a phone booth in the East Village. After, John moved on to Momofuku (where he used to serve the Mountainside), and he co-founded the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, a non-profit organization providing grants and resources to people in the restaurant industry. He’s also the author of a cocktail book called Drink What You Want, and it has recipes for everything from a classic Negroni to an absinthe weed punch. The Mountainside also makes an appearance, but we’re going to walk you through it right here.
This cocktail shares roughly 90% of its DNA with a classic Old Fashioned - but there are a few key differences. First off, a Mountainside calls for Japanese whisky. “Those whiskies are mild and not super smoky,” John says, “and they have this nice sort of herbal/woody note to them.” John also decided to use fennel syrup, because it helps draw out and compliment the whisky’s slightly herbal flavor. And, since Angostura bitters “can be a bit overpowering,” he went with orange bitters for this cocktail. At the end of the day, the Mountainside is no more complicated than a standard Old Fashioned. Sure, you’ll have to make some fennel syrup - but you should be able to do that in less than 5 minutes while you listen to a podcast or calculate the square root of something in your head. And it’ll be very much worth it.
Makes 1 Mountainside
- 2 ounces Japanese whisky
- .25 ounce fennel syrup
- 3 dashes orange bitters
- Grapefruit twist
For The Fennel Syrup:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 30 grams (or 3 tbsp) fennel seeds
Step One: Fennel Syrup
The first thing we need to do is make some fennel syrup. Fortunately, this is exceedingly easy. Start by mixing 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup plain white sugar to make some simple syrup. Pour that in a blender, then add 30 grams (or roughly 3 tablespoons) fennel seeds. Blend on high for 3 minutes, then strain through a coffee filter to remove any solids. And that’s it. You can store your fennel syrup in the fridge for up to two weeks, but, for now, add .25 ounce to your mixing glass.
Step Two: Orange Bitters
Orange bitters are one of the most common types of bitters out there, and they’re exactly what they sound like. They’re also significantly lighter than Angostura bitters (what you’d typically use in an Old Fashioned), so they’ll help keep this drink clean and bright. Put 3 dashes in your mixing glass.
Step Three: Japanese Whisky
The first thing you should know about Japanese whisky is that it’s modeled on Scotch whiskey, although the smoke tends to be more subdued, and the smooth, honeyed quality is usually a little more pronounced. Those are, however, generalizations, and there are a lot of different Japanese whiskies out there. John used to like Yamazaki 12 for this drink - but the price for that stuff has gone up significantly in the past few years, so try Toki from Suntory. You should be able to pick up a bottle for less than $50. Hibiki (another whisky from Suntory) is also a great choice, although it’s about twice as expensive. Whatever you choose, add 2 ounces to your mixing glass.
Step Four: Stir
Add 5 or 6 ice cubes to your mixing glass, and stir for 15 seconds. Next, strain your cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice, and garnish with a grapefruit twist. If you want to get extra fancy, cut a slit in the middle of your twist, so you can perch it on the rim of your Mountainside. Anyone who sees this will assume that you’re a highly gifted bartender, and the taste of this drink should back that up as well.