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The Old Fashioned

June 8, 2010

The Old Fashioned Cocktail is one of my favorite year round sippers.  It is warm and soothing in the cold months and cool and refreshing in the hot days of summer.  I also enjoy this little tipple for the  debate over the “true” recipe. It is almost (but not quite) as varying as recipes for the Martini, but we will save that for another day.  And before we get to the recipe, let’s take a little journey back in time……

In May of 1806, the word “cocktail” first appeared in print in The Balance and Columbian Repository, a newspaper published in Hudson, New York.  “Cocktail” was defined as any spirit, combined with sugar, bitters, and water.  And since then, the word cocktail has been considered an American creation ( the word not the drink).  The cocktail was a style of drink like the Flip, the Sour or the Collins, and was ordered by the drinker’s chosen spirit,” I’ll have a gin cocktail.”

Now sometime in the 1860-70’s there was a rash of new drinks coming into play, using a wide variety of ingredients, techniques, and flavors.  But the Old-Timers wanted nothing to do with all these new fancy drinks and simply wanted the drink the old-fashioned way.  Ah-Ha!

The family of drinks known as the Old Fashioned was born.  The term first appeared in print in 1880.  Now, for many years it was believed that The Pendemmis Club in Kentucky created the Old fashioned Cocktail, however they didn’t open there doors until 1881.  They did a lot to popularize it, however, and probably set the standard of this drink using whiskey.  The Old fashioned can actually be made from any spirit whether whiskey, gin, rum, brandy, or whatever.  In its proper ordering, the drinker would say,”Gin cocktail, Old fashioned style.”, and he/she would receive the traditional ingredients of a cocktail: spirit of choice, sugar, water, and bitters.

Nowadays, many bartenders will muddle and orange and cherry in the bottom of a glass in making this drink. There has been a lot of speculation as to why this started.  The most viable reason I have heard is that this started during Prohibition to cover up the less than flavorful, poor quality booze that were being served in the speakeasys of the time.  There is nothing wrong with this approach mind you, but this is more of a New Fashioned rather than an Old Fashioned.  There are also addition of water or club soda as well depending on who makes the drink or where you are regionally.  This, along with the muddling, actually moves our cocktail to a family of drinks called a smash (again another story for another day)

If you are lucky enough to love in an area where you aca find a bartender with quality in mind, give the old style Old Fashioned a try.  Or if you are a home enthusiast, the ingredients and simple, easy to find, and are probably in your liquor cabinet already.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

  • 2 oz spirit (I prefer rum or rye)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup*
  • 2 dashes Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)

Measure simple syrup and pour into the bottom of a short wide glass ( now know oddly enough as an Old fashioned glass).  Add the bitters and spirit.  Put in just enough ice to cover the liquid, then stir for a good 15 seconds to combine.  To garnish, cut a long piece of orange peel using a vegetable peeler.  Twist the peel over the glass, then give your drink a stir with the peel.  Top with a fresh ( not red dyed) cherry.  Sit back relax and enjoy.

*To make simple syrup:  take 8 oz by weight of sugar, and 8 oz of filtered water by volume and place in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until sugar melts then let simmer for about 5 minutes.  Let cool to room temp then transfer to an easily controllable container (i like squeeze bottles).  refrigerate.  It’ll be good for about 5 days.

Traditionally, a lump of sugar or sugar cube was the way to go.  And of you choose to follow this path,  the only change is you will start with the sugar and about a teaspoon of water.  Using a muddler, pulverize the sugar cube and break up the crystals until you have a syrup in the bottom of the glass, then proceed with the recipe.  Personally I like using the simple syrup,because the sugar crystals are already broken down and combine mor evenly.

And for a really cool variation, instead of using white cane sugar, grab yourself some Sugar in the Raw (tribunado), which adds a unique depth to any drink calling for sugar. For more info in this chick here.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Bram permalink
    June 9, 2010 1:57 pm

    Recently started making Old Fashioneds this way — I still like the muddled orange version, but this is so much better. And easier.

    So is the great Angostura Bitters drought over, do you know? Getting low and can’t find any more ….

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