Last year The Old Fashioned moved its location to the basement of an old hats shop in the city centre of Ghent and we dropped down the stairs to make a review. A great bar with some great concepts and a magnificent team.
The address is not a secret, it brings you to one of Ghent’s oldest hats shops. An open door next to it with a lit hallway and a staircase leading down is what you’re looking for. So, except for the wooden sign outside, you wouldn’t know there was a cocktail bar lurking underneath. A certain speakeasy aspect we obviously like, because you never know what to expect. It has that certain touch of inviting mystery, that “let’s have a look” urge.
We went down the stairs and heard a familiar noise… the fabulous Mr. Marco Mathieux – a fantastic Belgian bartender and now Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador – this man is 4 parts creativity mixed with 2 parts insanity and 3 parts charm, topped up with a gallon of passion and skill set. We talked about everything from Hendrick’s Gin to leprechauns armed with cucumbers hiding in car trunks. When you meet him, ask him about it and be mesmerised.
Behind the bar, the most charming moustache of the Belgian cocktail scene, Mr. Steve Okhuysen, bar owner and manager of The Old Fashioned. A great guy, famous for his “Blood & Sand” variations and of course “The Smokey Halibut”. The latter is a drink that smells and tastes like fish, yet there’s nothing fishy about it and surprisingly it doesn’t contain anything belonging to the scaly citizen’s of Neptune’s realm. A must try, unless you don’t like fish of course.
Next to the sympathetic ‘stache stands Mr. Jurgen Nobels. Now, you better remember this name, because you will be hearing more of it over the next couple of years. While we were judging the preselections of Diageo World Class Belgium 2015, Jurgen blew us away with a fantastic recipe and presentation, earning him a first place in Burst 1. This guy is a rising star in the Belgian cocktail scene. Together with Ran Van Ongevalle – Hannah’s brother – another big gun in the Belgian cocktail scene, they will make the Finals very interesting.
The menu in Old Fashioned has a very refreshing concept and we thought it was quite clever. It exists of a couple of cards held together by a paperclip. The cards contain the recipes with some doubtfully useful – yet funny – faits divers on the back of the card. Creating a new menu? Just pick 6 or so, cards from the file cabinet and boom, there you have it. One of them not popular? Flick out the card and replace by a new one. How amazing is that! If somebody really can’t decide what to drink, you can do the “pick a card trick”. This concept has a lot of possibilities. For instance, when the customer has a special request which leads to a whole new cocktail, a file is opened under his name and the cocktail in question gets its own card. So whenever the customer enters the bar and asks for his cocktail, the recipe is easily retrieved. It also has that certain something more on the hospitality scale, I think. We were dying to try that out and it lead to a delicious Mescal Hanky Panky made by Mr. Nobels. Exquisite!
The bar itself is that wonderful luring centre piece of furniture where all the magic happens and you’re easily invited to join social talk with the other guests, which is great. On the other hand, if you want things to be more private, no problem. Just walk past the bar into the other room and drop yourself in one of the vintage seats. Scared to be forgotten? No need to. Every table has its own old fashioned switch that turns on an old lightbulb at the bar, indicating which table asks for service. All the tables are also provided with an antique radio that functions as a speaker connected to a central audio system. So everybody gets his music without everything becoming too loud. The tables are spaced out quite well, so nobody will disturb anybody.
This bar is great. You can join the happy social gathering at the bar or retreat to enjoy your company by choice. It has a nice soothing atmosphere of happy smiles and hospitality, great drinks and a fantastic team. We especially enjoyed the “Bloed en Zand” – a genever variation of the Blood & Sand and the Reconquista – just ask about it.
Bloed & Zand:
50ml De Moor Single Malt genever
20ml Cherry Heering
20ml Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
20ml Freshly pressed orange juice
30 ml mezcal
15 ml tequila reposado
30 ml Punt E Mes
15 ml Dolin Dry
3 dashes Fernet Branca
1 dash orange bitters
Hoogpoort 19, Ghent, Belgium.
A must try for every cocktailian!