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Great Baltimore cocktails: The Old Square at Parts & Labor

The Old Square at Parts & Labor in Remington.
The Old Square at Parts & Labor in Remington. (Meekah Hopkins, Baltimore Sun)

Cold weather has me thinking about Manhattans — and every variant of the classic whiskey cocktail.

Aside from being warm, earthy and a very stiff drink, it is timeless, classic and sophisticated. It's pretty much everything you want it to be if you're a cocktail connoisseur.

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But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Sometimes, a Manhattan is just too much alcohol when all you're after is a quick drink. So what to do when presented with the challenge of wanting quality over quantity in one, elegant package? You order the Old Square at Parts & Labor in Remington.

The meaty farm-to-table butchery and restaurant from the Woodberry super group of Spike and Amy Gjerde is like a hipster's dream. It boasts an open kitchen complete with stone hearth, stone floors, industrial-size ceilings, a full bar with 24 beers on tap — and a bevy of bespectacled, mustachioed servers. In addition, the cocktail menu — designed seasonally by bar manager Jayce Flickinger — is a collection of classically prepared cocktails rendered more approachable, either by name or in ingredients. I like to think of Parts & Labor's cocktail list as a younger, cooler set of Prohibition-era favorites.

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The Old Square is a nice little tribute to a Vieux Carre, New Orleans' 1930s innovation on the Manhattan. Vieux Carre literally translates to "old square," a reference to the Big Easy's French Quarter. As expected, this drink is a lighter, not-taking-itself-so seriously spin on the original.

Like a Manhattan, the Old Square has rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters but includes other bells and whistles — the addition of cognac, a bar spoon of lavender-and-herb-based Benedictine liqueur, a dash of Peychaud's bitters — that make it less rough around the edges.

Still, this is one to be sipped, which accounts for that big ice cube peeking out of the drink. Trendy? Yes, but also purposeful. "[It keeps the cocktail] cold but not as diluted … or, you could just drink faster," Flickinger said.

An on-the-rocks style Manhattan, the Old Square is the perfect one-drink order, no matter the speed of consumption.

How To Make the Old Square

3/4 oz. rye whiskey (George Dickel)

3/4 oz. cognac

3/4 oz. sweet vermouth

1 bar spoon (1 teaspoon) Benedictine liqueur

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

Ice

Lemon twist, for garnish

Stir (do not shake). Pour over ice in a mixing glass and then strain into a cocktail glass to serve over ice.

Where to Get the Old Square

Parts & Labor

2600 N. Howard St., Remington

443-873-8887

$12

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