Old Hickory Whiskey Bar Brings Manhattan To The EC
For some their Old Hickory is an upgrade to a Perfect Manhattan.
Andrew Jackson had a major impact on Pensacola, ousting British forces on his way to becoming historically famous for his victory over the Brits in New Orleans.
During the past five-plus years, a unique Pensacola establishment bearing Jackson’s “Old Hickory” nickname — earned for his strength and endurance during the war of 1812 — has enjoyed considerable success in its own right.
There, the house specialty is naturally “The Old Hickory.”
Located in a central downtown location on South Palafox Street, the bar boasts a gigantic display that includes nearly 700 whiskeys, other spirits and cocktail makings.
Husband and wife Tony and Katie Garrett are the owners of the Old Hickory Whiskey Bar, and Kelly Blackwell is their bar manager.
During a visit in August, assistant bar manager D.C. Campbell made us their signature drink, which was developed by Jeffrey Knott, who just happens to be Blackwell’s boyfriend.
Blackwell explained that the 10-item cocktail menu at Old Hickory changes seasonally, but the namesake offering is a permanent fixture.
“No matter what time of year or what day of the week it might be, someone can always get that cocktail,” Blackwell said.
“It’s a riff on a timeless classic. It’s our version of the Perfect Manhattan, basically, and we’ve sold 40,000 of them since our bar opened.”
Why so popular?
“It’s a whole sensory experience from the time you first sit down at the bar and watch one of us make it,” Blackwell said.
“Everyone loves when we set things on fire. It kind of harkens back to our primitive self. It’s nostalgic and comforting. Even before you taste the cocktail, you’re ready for this warm, inviting experience.”
When asked about the choice of bourbon as the main ingredient as opposed to blended whiskey, Blackwell did not hesitate to explain.
“Buffalo Trace is a high-rye bourbon and the flavor profile holds up very well in a Manhattan,” she said.
“Using both vermouths marries very well with the flavor profile that our guests like.”
But that’s not all.
“Buffalo Trace has given us a lot of support,” Blackwell said.
“They were one of the very first distilleries that we established a relationship with. When they first opened, the owner and her husband took a visit to Buffalo Trace and they picked out their first barrel.”
That has grown to seven barrels in five years.
Using a smoked glass for Old Hickory simply adds to the signature of the house specialty.
“A lot of people come in and ask, ‘Is that cedar?’ But we wanted to stay with our namesake,” Blackwell said.
“And after we tried a few different woods, we decided the hickory gave this unique profile to it.”
Garnishing Old Hickory calls for a little bit of fire.
“The flamed lemon zest basically releases that oil and it caramelizes,” Blackwell said.
“And you get those wonderful candied notes. It really elevates the entire experience.”
Pensacola resident Kristopher Castillo is a regular customer who enjoys the house specialty.
“It’s one of my favorite cocktails,” Castillo said.
“It’s similar to a Perfect Manhattan, but what sets it apart is the smoking of the glass on the hickory board. It’s smooth but boozy at the same time. A great cocktail to sip on.”
Castillo said that’s not the only reason that Old Hickory is his favorite spot in town.
“It provides a unique experience that one would normally find in bigger cities,” Castillo said.
“Their bottle selection is the best in town and caters to any budget. Whether you’re having a low-key night by yourself or a night out with friends, this bar needs to be on the top of your list of places to visit in Pensacola.”
The Old Hickory
In a mixing glass, combine 2 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon and ½ ounce each of Dolin Sweet and Dry Vermouth.
Add three dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass that has been smoked using hickory wood.
Garnish with an Italian Amarena cherry and a flamed lemon peel.