In a brilliant effort to showcase the significant differences spirits can have on a cocktail, Locanda's new bar director Gabriel Lowe (formerly of Beretta and Delerosa) has been quietly adding cocktail flights to the menu. Taking a classic recipe, he presents a triptych of sorts, swapping out base spirit and presenting three iterations: one with the traditional choice, and two others that are closely related. In his Negroni Flight ($20), he presents three versions, each made with a different gin. While delicious and fascinating, it was the Old Fashioned Flight ($20) that impressed me the most.
The Old Fashioned cocktail, which some historians date to the early 1800s, is a simple combination of whiskey, sugar, and bitters. The minimal recipe yields some impressive adaptations in Lowe's flight: a rye version (Old Overholt Rye Whiskey, demerara sugar, orange bitters, Angostura bitters, lemon twist) tastes dark and spiced, a bourbon one (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters, Angostura bitters, orange twist) is mellow and extremely sippable, and the scotch variation (Famous Grouse Scotch, honey, orange bitters, Angostura bitters, grapefruit twist) is earthy and satisfying, with just a touch of peat smoke.
While three cocktails at once may sound a little overwhelming, they are perfect for sharing a little history.
Locanda, 557 Valencia (at 16th St.), 863-6800