Have a Drink: Old Fashioned


Reaching back to the days of Jefferson, the Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail

Old Fashioned cocktail | Relampago’s Rating: Star16Star16Star16Star16StarBW16

In the mood for something different this weekend? Let’s take a journey back to the earliest days of America, days in which an appropriately named Old Fashioned cocktail was a new invention. You could down a few Old Fashioned in between mongering with some of the girls at the saloon. Ah, how a man longs for the days of true freedom and not the false sloganeering about freedom we put up with today. According to Serious Eats it’s easy to make and it is very tasty:

This one’s hard to screw up. The Old Fashioned is one of the most venerable of cocktails, predating not only the motor car but the presidency of Abe Lincoln. Properly made, it’s strong, but not too much, and sweet, but not too much; most important, it’s dead simple to make, and absolutely delicious.

Here’s a history of the cocktail:

The first documented definition of the word “cocktail” was in response to a reader’s letter asking to define the word in the May 6, 1806, issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York. In the May 13, 1806, issue, the paper’s editor wrote that it was a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar; it was also referred to at the time as a bittered sling. J.E. Alexander describes the cocktail similarly in 1833, as he encountered it in New York City, as being rum, gin, or brandy, significant water, bitters, and sugar, though he includes a nutmeg garnish as well.

By the 1860s, it was common for orange curaçao, absinthe, and other liqueurs to be added to the cocktail. The original concoction, albeit in different proportions, came back into vogue, and was referred to as “old-fashioned”. The most popular of the in-vogue “old-fashioned” cocktails were made with whiskey, according to a Chicago barman, quoted in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1882, with rye being more popular than Bourbon. The recipe he describes is a similar combination of spirits, bitters, water and sugar of seventy-six years earlier.

The first use of the name “Old Fashioned” for a Bourbon whiskey cocktail was said to have been at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky. The recipe was said to have been invented by a bartender at that club in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller, who brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City.

This recipe uses bourbon, sugar, and bitters. Interestingly, while we are discussing bourbon, this corn derived whiskey derives its name from the French Bourbon dynasty although there’s a debate over whether it got its name from Bourbon County, KY or the infamous Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Here’s how to use bourbon to make an Old Fashioned:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon fine sugar
  • 2-3 dashes of bitters; Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Bitters are recommended

Place the sugar in a glass and sprinkle in the bitters; add a few drops of water, and stir until dissolved. Add the whiskey and stir. Ice cubes are optional, as is a cherry garnish. Cheers!

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