Drink Local Florida Blog

What Makes a Florida Whiskey & How to Make an "Old Florida"

Timber Creek Southern Reserver Florida Whiskey - Neat

I had nearly polished off my bottle of Southern Reserve Florida Whiskey bourbon blend from Timber Creek Distillery and wanted to do something special with the last few drinks I’d get out of it. This whiskey was so good I drank nearly the entire bottle straight-up or on the rocks. The Old Fashioned is my favorite cocktail but I wanted to put an extra Florida emphasis on this classic, for which there are no better choices than Timber Creek’s Florida Whiskey, Florida Black Rye Whiskey or their Southern Reserve Florida Whiskey bourbon blends.

An Old Florida is mostly like an Old Fashioned, but with a Florida twist. There’s more on this cocktail and how to make it below, but first I need to define what makes a Florida whiskey and dispel a common myth.

I’ve heard at least ten different people, most of them “bourbon snobs,” say that for a whiskey to be considered a bourbon, it must come from Kentucky. That is simply not true. In fact, the American Bourbon Association defines rules for classifying a spirit as bourbon. The two top rules are that it is a whiskey made from grains consisting of at least 51% corn, and that it is produced in the United States.

Bourbon does not have to be produced in the state of Kentucky, but many people think this must be the case simply because most bourbons, and the most well-known bourbons, tend to come from the Blue Grass state. While it has led to some confusion, there is a good reason so many bourbons and whiskeys are produced in Kentucky and Tennessee: the water. The location of the Maker’s Mark Distillery was chosen many generations ago because it sits on top of their own water source. This water, along with much of the water in Kentucky and Tennessee, is naturally limestone filtered, thus purified and rich in calcium.

But guess what? Florida sits on a massive limestone bedrock, which uniquely positions certain areas of the Sunshine State to produce some world-class whiskeys as well.

The vast majority of Florida homes do not have basements because this limestone bedrock sits relatively high and there is a limit to how deep you can dig. Although we can't have basements, the good news is that this limestone filters many of Florida’s spring water sources. Limestone filtered watered is calcium-rich and free of iron and sulfur, making it the essential ingredient in producing premium whiskeys.

So, what makes a Florida whiskey? The first and most critical requirement for a Florida whiskey is that is made from Florida spring water naturally filtered through limestone.

Timber Creek Distilled and Bottled in Florida

Next is that the whiskey must be made with at least 90% Florida grains. This can be corn and wheat for bourbon or rye for rye whiskeys. Remember to be a bourbon at least 51% of the grains used must be corn. Timber Creek Distillery, based in Crestview, uses only local (Florida) yellow corn and Florida 401 black rye.  A Florida whiskey must be made from at least 90% Florida grains. Timber Creek’s Florida Whiskey blend and Southern Reserve Florida Whiskey blend meet these criteria, while their Florida Black Rye Whiskey is made entirely of rye and comes 100% from Florida grains.

The final requirement for a Florida whiskey: it should be barrel aged in Florida’s heat and humidity. Timber Creek’s Southern Reserve ages a minimum of 9 months. It is left unfiltered so you can truly enjoy the robust flavor of an authentic Florida whiskey. It is bottled at 100 proof and has a bold taste from the 100% corn Florida bourbon base, with additional complexity from the Florida rye and barley whiskeys added to make this blend.

Old Florida Cocktail Made with Florida Whiskey
Now that we’ve defined a Florida whiskey, you know how to select the correct spirit for making an Old Florida. Let’s look at how to make this classic cocktail with a Florida twist.

A traditional Old Fashioned is made with sugar, bitters and splash of water muddled together. You then add ice, 2 oz of whiskey and twist a citrus (lemon or orange) rind for its essence, leaving the rind twist in the glass. It is often garnished with a Marciano cherry, orange, or both.

As you may have guessed, an Old Florida is very much like an Old Fashioned but primarily uses ingredients from Florida. Here is the list of ingredients in the order in which to use them, and below are instructions on how to craft this cocktail.

  • 1 sugar cube (sugar could be from Florida but not required)
  • Splash of Florida spring water (just barely enough to dissolve the sugar)
  • 2-3 dashes of Bitters, preferably from Florida but these can be hard to find (Top choice: BuffaBiters Ol' Fashion Bitters)
  • (Optional) One-quarter of a peeled Florida Orange slice muddled with the sugar
  • Ice
  • 2 oz of a Florida whiskey (defined above)
  • Essence of a Florida Orange peel, with rind left in glass (known as a twist)
  • (Optional) Small Florida orange slice for garnish

Prep: Use a pairing knife to cut off a portion of the peel from a Florida orange. The peel should be about the size of what would come from a wedge 1/8th the size of the orange. There should be very little pith (white layer between the peel and the fruit) on the rind.

Put the sugar cube in a low-ball or Old Fashioned glass. ¾ of a teaspoon of sugar can substitute a cube. Drip a very small “splash” of Florida spring water on top of the sugar to help it dissolve. This is a critical step as the drink should have some texture and the sugar should not be too watered down. Next put in two-to-three dashes of Bitters. For a stronger orange taste, add the optional ¼ of a Florida orange slice before muddling these ingredients together and stirring with a bar spoon. Next add the ice and pour 2 ounces (a jigger) of Florida Whiskey on top. Lastly, squeeze and twist the orange peel over the glass to extract oil, drop this “orange twist” in the drink. Stir with a bar spoon, garnish with small orange slice (optional) and serve.

Tips & Recommendations:
Try this without the optional muddled orange first. You will be surprised how much citrus flavor you get from simply twisting the orange rind to extract its oil. You may decide to muddle the orange in with the sugar and bitters when making this a second time.

If you are serving others, garnish with an orange but don’t muddle orange in the cocktail. This allows the drinker to taste first and decide if they want to squeeze in the extra orange.

It is important for the rind not to have too much pith. This allows more oil to transfer from the rind to the beverage.

Be very careful when using the pairing knife to cut the peel or remove excess pith. Prep the peels ahead of time and store them in a Ziploc bag in your fridge to avoid using a knife after enjoying one or more of these cocktails.

As a rule of thumb, if a whiskey is not good enough to enjoy neat than it is not good enough for use in an Old Fashioned. The same applies to an Old Florida.

The standard Old Florida is made with a Florida whiskey such as Timber Creek’s Florida Whiskey blend. For a bolder, whiskey taste use their Southern Reserve (100 proof) Florida Whiskey. For a drier version use their Florida Black Rye.

An Old Florida is best enjoyed in an Old Florida setting, such as along the Nature Coast or on the banks of a Florida River.

Timber Creek is carried by many ABC Liquor stores throughout the state of Florida. Search for their spirits closest to your zip code here.

Posted: June 9, 2019
Copyright 2019 Drink Local Florida, LLC.
The Old Florida Cocktail recipe was developed by and is the intellectual property of Drink Local Florida. Any mention or use of this cocktail in print, video or other media must attribute credit to Drink Local Florida and should link to this web page.

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