This autumnal cocktail, which was created by the late legendary cocktailista Sash Petraske, caught my attention because of the somewhat unusual preparation instructions. According to his book Regarding Cocktails the ingredients are just built (cocktailspeak for poured into) in a whisky glass, a large ice cube added and then stirred until “sufficiently chilled”. This goes against everything we have been told about making aromatic style cocktails and almost all subsequent re-tellings of this drink attempt to normalise it by using the usual techniques of stirring it with ice, straining it and serving it either up or down over ice. Sasha was a cocktail genius but it sounds to me like a lot of people don’t trust him. I do. I believe his instructions are very specific for a reason. We stir with ice to achieve cooling but also dilution but it seems to me that Mr P was going deliberately for some chilling but with minimal dilution in order to keep the drink strong and luxuriant. Something to be enjoyed after a fine meal – it was, after all, created for the menu of a high end oyster bar – as a digestif like a glass of Cognac or port. As such it doesn’t need to be diluted or ice cold as a full stomach can handle that potency in a way that an empty one cannot. I make my Fallback exactly as Sasha described with only minor substitutions for what I have available: Calvados instead of applejack and Punt e Mes vermouth rather than Carpano Antica*. The amaro Nonino might be tricky for some but well worth seeking out as it also essential in the delicious Paper Plane. Made this way the Fallback is indeed punchier and more intense than a stirred and strained aromatic cocktail. You find yourself taking smaller sips as each contains oodles of flavour and, wow, are they beautifully integrated. Your tastebuds are just dancing all over the place in a way you just don’t experience with a more diluted drink. So there we have it folks: Sasha Petraske, now some 8 years departed, was doing something interesting here that those who came after him failed to properly understand. Message ends.
1oz/30ml Rye whisky (eg. Rittenhouse).
1oz/30ml VS Calvados (originally bonded applejack).
0.5oz/15ml Italian vermouth (I used Punt e Mes*).
0.5oz/15ml Amaro Nonino.
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters.
Add all ingredients into an un-chilled double old fashioned glass. Add a single big block or ball of ice and stir gently in the glass for about 60 seconds. Garnish with a long swathe of orange peel.
Toast Sasha Petraske (yes, yet again).
*This is simply my personal preference as I like the extra bitterness that Punt e Mes brings and as a home bartender I can’t have various bottles of vermouth open at the same time. Feel free to use any other quality Italian vermouth.