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Sometimes the Old Fasioned ways can be the best ways. This can be as true with cocktails, as it is with many other things. Unfortunately, the drink that has taken on the name of "Old Fashioned" is often done in a "New Fashioned" way, and suffers terribly because of it.

Renewing an Old Fashion

As you might expect, I am often asked what my favorite cocktail is. This is a fairly difficult question to answer for me, and often it will depend on which drink I am currently messing around with. A drink that always deserves a spot high on my list is the Old Fashioned. However, as I mention in Passing The Test, I usually only order this drink when I am trying to test the bartender. This is because the modern bartender has degenerated this drink to the point that it is more like a bourbon spritzer then it is a classic cocktail.

Recently I was at a new bar, and began running the bartender though some of my standard tests to get a better understand their attitude towards this art that is so near and dear to my heart. As I watched him prepare my drink, he got off to a decent start, but was clearly not quite sure exactly how to make this drink, and I noticed that he appeared to be getting some coaching tips from somebody who appeared to be the bar manager or something. As I eavesdropped on the "lesson", I heard the bar manager give the fatal advice of "and now you add some soda". I decided that I had learned what I needed to about the bartender, and would attempt to rescue my drink before it was too late. I casually (but quickly) wandered over and interrupted their discussion.

"You don't need to add any soda for my sake, I'd find it perfectly fine as it is", I interjected, attempting to be as congenial as possible.

The bar manager replied with something along the lines of, "If that's the way you like it, but the soda is part of a traditional Old Fashioned."

A remark that I clearly couldn't just let stand, now could I?

What followed was a very interesting and enjoyable little "debate" over the proper construction of the Old Fashioned, and its history as a cocktail. Here indeed was somebody who cared about the drinks that they made, and had even done a little research and investigation on their own to better understand aspects of many of the classics. He showed promise, but had so far only scratched the surface of really understanding the Old Fashioned. He unfortunately was already late to his shift at another bar owned by the same company, so we weren't able to quite finish our discussion, but all of this got me thinking about the historical evolution of the Old Fashioned, and how it perhaps could be laid out to somebody in such a way as to help them really get a better handle over it. So I decided to write up what might be considered the definitive essay about the Old Fashioned, its history, and its proper modern variation.

So let's get started...

An Old Fashioned Introduction

The Old Fashioned is an old drink, a very old drink. Perhaps you've had one, perhaps you haven't. And chances are that even if you have had one before, you still haven't really had one yet. While the general ingredients in this drink might be basically the same (Bourbon, Sugar, Bitters, Orange, Cherry, Water) from bar to bar, the construction of this drink will often differ significantly, and for a drink like the Old Fashioned, the style of the construction will determine the quality of the final product.

When I was first delving seriously into cocktails and mixology, Paul Harrington was providing weekly drink recipes for HotWired's CocktailTime website. I suppose I was lucky to have stumbled across somebody who believed in a classic cocktails served properly, with quality ingredients. Prior to making myself an Old Fashioned using the recipe and instructions he provided, I don't think I had ever had one of these. Or if I had, it was distinctly unmemorable. I soon found that I really loved this cocktail, it was full of flavor, intensity, and the lightly muddled orange just added something great to the whiskey. Almost all of my cocktail experimentation was being done at home at this time, but as you might expect I found myself one day at a cocktail bar, and so I ordered my new favorite, the Old Fashioned. Imagine my shock and surprise, when not only did this drink not taste anything like I had been expecting, but in fact it tasted downright horrid. Clearly, one of us didn't know how to make this drink properly.

I repeated this several times after that. Going into a new bar, order an Old Fashioned, and discover that theirs tasted nothing like mine. I soon began to doubt anything I thought I knew about cocktails, after all, there was just one of me, and now more than half a dozen of them. It was clear that one of the key differences between my version and their version was the use of a significant amount of club soda to top off the drink. I scoured through any cocktail book I could find, and rarely, if ever, did I see anything that indicated "their" way was the proper way to make this drink. Over time, it dawned on me that the average bartender doesn't truly appreciate, or even understand, the "cuisine de cocktail". It was probably my experiences with the Old Fashioned, more then any other cocktail, which helped me to formulate many of the ideas and approaches that I continue with to this day. It was a very defining moment for me.

Sometimes, the way to truly understand a cocktail recipe, or any recipe for that matter, is to look at it from a historical standpoint. Try to find out how it might have originally been prepared, and then see how it has evolved over time.

Before you read the rest of this article, you might want to read the Old Fashioned write-up that I did to show you how to make this cocktail properly. Then you can come back and read the rest of this article in which I provide some specific background and details about the history and evolution of this great cocktail.

Origins of an Old Fashioned

As the story goes, the Old Fashioned was "invented" at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. From my library, here is the oldest recounting of this story that I could locate:

 

"Old Waldorf Bar Days" (1931) by Albert Stevens Crockett
This was brought to the old Waldorf in the days of its "sit-down" Bar, and introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper, of Kentucky, proprietor of a celebrated whiskey of the period. The Old-fashioned Whiskey cocktail was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member.

There are variations of this story that occur in other books, often describing how it was for a retired Civil War general, who didn't care for his whiskey straight, that the bartender created this drink originally.

Sifting Through the Sands of Time

So let's spend a little time looking through the various cocktail books through history to look at how this drink might originally have been made, and how it might be made today.

Our first goal is to locate the oldest printed record of this drink. Thanks to group of people who hang out on my DrinkBoy community, I was able to connect up with Dave Wondrich, from Esquire Magazine, who provided the following recipe from a book that I (currently) don't have in my own library:

 

"Modern American Drinks" (1895) by George J. Kappeler
The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.

From this, we can see that the basic construction of the Old Fashioned is fairly similar to what we have today. Noting of course that the water used here is only for dissolving the sugar (which doesn't dissolve as well in alcohol), and there isn't yet any sign of the orange or cherry that most of us today assume will be found in this drink.

At the end of this article I will document a large collection of recipes for the Old Fashioned, but first let's step through a special selection of them which I think illustrate various important aspects of understanding how this cocktail has evolved.

 

"Drinks as they are Mixed" (1904) Paul E. Lowe
Cocktail, Old Fashioned.

Use old-fashioned cocktail glass. Sugar, 1 lump. Seltzer, 1 dash, and crush sugar with muddler. Ice, one square piece. Orange bitters, 1 dash. Angostura bitters, 1 dash. Lemon peel, 1 piece. Whiskey, 1 jigger. Stir gently and serve with spoon.

In this recipe, we see Seltzer being used for probably the first time; again it is clear that it is only being used to dissolve the sugar. We also see Orange bitters being referenced. Back in these days, Orange bitters was a very popular bitters, often used more then Angostura, so it might not be surprising to see a bartender use it instead of, or in addition to some other bitters. While Angostura was a "proprietary bitters" (meaning that it could only be made by the company that held its proprietary recipe), Orange bitters was sort of a generic bitters that many companies made. Today, it is currently fairly hard to find, but it is still being made by Fee Brothers in Rochester New York.

 

"Jacks Manual" (1908) Jack. A. Grohusko
OLD FASHION COCKTAILS

1 dash Angostura bitters 1 dash Curaçao Piece of cut loaf sugar Dissolve in two spoonfuls of water 100% liquor as desired 1 piece ice in glass. Stir well and twist a piece of lemon peel on top and serve

Here we present another interesting change to the recipe. Instead of Orange bitters, we see the use of Curaçao, which is an orange flavored liqueur similar to triple sec, and would clearly add more orange flavor to this drink then Orange bitters would. And still, we see water being used only to dissolve the sugar.

 

"ABC of Mixing Cocktails" (1922) by Harry McElhone
198. Old-Fashioned Whisky Cocktail

Take a small tumbler and put into it 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 1 lump of ice, 1 glass Canadian Club Whisky, 1 tablespoonful Castor Sugar. Stir well until Sugar is dissolved, then squeeze Lemon Peel on top and serve in same glass as mixed.

Here, we see what I think is the first specific reference to Canadian whisky being used. Harry McElhone was the noted bartender and owner of "Harry's American Bar" in Paris, which he opened after leaving Ciro's of London. I can only guess why he chose to use Canadian whisky instead of what would have almost certainly been the original American whiskey (Bourbon, or most likely Rye). Canadian whisky is a gentler whisky, with less of a robust flavor then what you might find in an American whiskey, but it is also made with mostly Rye grain, so many people will accidentally infer that it is a suitable substitute for American Rye whiskey. You'll also note that Mr. McElhone also specifically names the brand of the product to use. Is this due to marketing pressures or obligations? The "ABC of Mixing Cocktails" does have advertising in it, and even includes an ad for Canadian Club. But probably more instrumental to the use of a Canadian whisky instead of American, is that at the time this book was written, American whiskies were not being made because American was still entrenched in "the great experiment", also known as Prohibition. So any cocktail, which listed Whiskey as an ingredient, would either have to rely on old pre-prohibition stock, or with a substitute of some other style of whiskey, which normally would mean Canadian.

 

"The Cocktail Book : A Sideboard Manual For Gentlemen" (1925, revised from 1900 edition) Issued for The St. Botolph Society By L. C. Page & Company Publishers
Whiskey Cocktail -- Old-fashioned.

Put a lump of sugar in a whiskey glass; add enough hot water to cover the sugar. Crush the sugar; add a lump of ice, two dashes Boker's bitters, one portion whiskey, small piece lemon peel. Mix with small spoon and serve with spoon in glass.

Here we see a number of interesting, if not confusing variations. To begin with, they call this drink a "Whiskey Cocktail" with the added modifier of "Old-fashioned" as though to say that this is a whiskey cocktail, made in the old-fashioned style. We'll return to this concept later, but just mull it over in your mind for now. Another interesting aspect is in how the water is used here, it is not only specifically indicated to be "hot water", but the amount is indicated as being enough to "cover the sugar". How much water this would be would depend on the size of the glass being used, as well as how big the sugar lumps were in those days. By using both hot water, and a lot of it, you will be sure to dissolve the sugar before you add the whiskey. If you use too much water however, it will start to become an actual ingredient in the drink, and not just part of the process.

 

"The Home Bartender's Guide and Song Book" (1930) by Charlie Roe and Jim Schwenck
OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL

A recipe direct from the famous Manhattan Club of New York. If you don't know this one, you just "ain't edjicated."

One lump sugar dissolved in one-fourth glass water Two dashes Angostura Bitters One jigger Rye One piece of ice One piece of Lemon Peel Stir -- serve

Here we again see what might be a significant amount of water being added. But how much water is this? When "one-fourth glass" is mentioned, is this in reference to the glass the drink will be served in itself, or the measuring glass that the bartender is using? For anybody who researches into the construction of old cocktails, this can often be a problem, usually you can gain some insight into what the author was thinking by looking through the other recipes and trying to see if there are any hints as to how measurements are being presented. In this particular book, it is a little confusing. Some recipes are listed in "parts" others in "ounces" others in "pony" and Jigger, still others use the term "cocktail glass" for measuring, and some use "wineglass". To illustrate the problem even further, one of the recipes that uses "wineglass" indicates that the recipe includes two wineglasses of gin, and one wineglass of whisky. Clearly they aren't talking about a full glass of our traditional wineglass, that much alcohol in one drink would certainly put even the best of us out for the count. It is traditionally believed amongst cocktail historians, that the term "wineglass" when used as a measurement, was indicting the use of a small Sherry wineglass, which was almost always 2 ounces. So one-fourth of a glass could be one-half ounce, or it could still be referring to filling the whiskey glass one-fourth with water, which could represent a considerable amount of water depending on the size of the glass. But as you can see, there is already enough confusion regarding imprecise measurement amounts that we need to look at such recipes with a skeptical eye, and allow our own experiences to help us determine how to best construct one of these drinks.

 

The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) by Harry Craddock
OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL.

1 Lump Sugar. 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. 1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. Crush sugar and bitters together, add lump of ice, decorate with twist of lemon peel and slice of orange using medium size glass, and stir well. This Cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc. instead of Rye Whisky.

Of the old cocktail volumes, The Savoy Cocktail Book is perhaps the one that many people might actually have. This book has been reprinted again at various times, sometimes as a later edition, with improvements and additions, but usually as a facsimile edition which accurately represents both the content, and form of the original 1930 edition.

An interesting aspect in this recipe is that we see no sign whatsoever of water being used to help dissolve the sugar, only bitters is used for this purpose. And since bitters are mostly alcohol, it will almost certainly leave some grit in the bottom of the glass. We also see the important addition of an orange slice used as a garnish, but no sign yet of the now common cherry.

 

"Old Waldorf Bar Days" (1931) by Albert Stevens Crockett
OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY

This was brought to the old Waldorf in the days of its "sit-down" Bar, and introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper, of Kentucky, proprietor of a celebrated whiskey of the period. The Old-fashioned Whiskey cocktail was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member.

One-quarter lump Sugar Two spoons Water One dash Angostura One jigger Whiskey One piece Lemon Peel One lump Ice Serve with small spoon

Here, we return back to the original recounting of where this cocktail might have originated. The recipe provided here doesn't provide any specific insights beyond what we've already seen. This same recipe was also printed in Mr. Crockett's 1935 book The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book, which essentially is just a collection of the cocktail recipes that appeared in "Old Waldorf Bar Days".

 

"The Art of Mixing" (1932) by Wiley and Griffith
OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY COCKTAIL.

Grab a good sized heavy bottomed glass and put into it 4 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 cube of ice, 1 shot Rye Whiskey, 1 teaspoonful sugar. Stir well until sugar is dissolved, and squeeze lemon peel on top. Drop in a piece of fresh pineapple, a slice of an orange, and offer.

Most notable in this recipe, besides the fact that it doesn't include any water, is that pineapple joins the lemon and orange as a garnish. Decorating cocktails and various other mixed drinks with colorful fruits was fairly common. Some take it to the ridiculous extreme, but in many cases some bit of color and festive decoration was expected to be part of the experience.

 

"What'll You Have?" (1933) by Julien J. Proskauer
The Old-Fashioned Cocktail

1 lump sugar 4 dashes Angostura Bitters 1 lump ice 1 glass Rye Whiskey 1 slice orange 1 cherry Stir well until Sugar is dissolved, then squeeze lemon peel on top and serve in same glass used for mixing.

In this recipe, we see one of the first times in which both orange and cherry are both used. Note specifically that while a lemon peel is clearly listed as a garnish, but not in the recipe itself, the orange and cherry however are both part of the recipe. The assumption would be easily arrived at that they would be stirred in the drink along with the rest of the ingredients in one fell swoop. Not muddled, not crushed, but simply incorporated in a way which most likely would not impart much in the way of actual flavors.

 

"The Mixologist : For Correct Drinks" (1934) by A. J. Bailey
Old Fashioned Cocktail

Use old fashioned cocktail glass. One piece loaf sugar. Two dashes peychaud bitters. One dash seltzer. Crush sugar with muddler. One cube of ice. Twist of lemon peel. One jigger bourbon whiskey. Stir well and serve with small barspoon. (Whatever liquor desired may be substituted for bourbon.)

The only thing specifically interesting in this recipe, is the specific use of Peychaud bitters instead of Angostura. Peychaud bitters are still being made by the Sazerac Company in New Orleans, but are not as commonly used in cocktails as Angostura is.

 

"Irvin S. Cobb's Own Recipe Book" (1934) by Irvin S. Cobb
OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY:

One-half piece Sugar, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, 1½ jiggers Paul Jones or Four Roses Whiskey, 1 slice Orange, 1 slice Lemon, 1 slice Pineapple, 2 dashes Curacao. Muddle sugar and bitters with pestle. Add cube of ice, whiskey and Curaçao and decorate with fruit. This cocktail was created at the Pendennis Club in Louisville in honor of a famous old-fashioned Kentucky Colnel. I claim it was worthy of him.

Here, we see another mention of the historical origins of this cocktail. We also see the use of a variety of fruit as a garnish as well as Orange Curaçao again being used as a flavor component.

 

"100 Famous Cocktails" (1934) by Oscar Michel Tschirsky (aka. "Oscar of the Waldorf")
OLD FASHIONED

One lump sugar One dash Abbott's Bitters One jigger Rye Whiskey One-half slice orange, one cherry Stick Pineapple Dash of siphon, lump of ice Serve in old fashioned glass

It is interesting to note here, that Oscar was a famous bartender at the Waldorf-Astoria, the same bar who's recipes Albert Crockett Stevens documented in his earlier book "Old Waldorf Bar Days", but this recipe has some differences. One is that it specifically lists the use of Abbott's bitters (which unfortunately is no longer available), but it also lists the use of soda water (siphon) without any indication that it is used for dissolving the sugar. Was this simply an omission of the process in constructing this drink, or did Oscar actually us the soda water as an "ingredient" in the final product?

 

Old Mr. Boston DeLuxe Official Bartender's Guide (1935, second printing of the first edition) by Leo Cotton
OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

1/2 Lump of Sugar 2 Dashes Bitters 1 Jigger Water

Muddle well, then add Jigger Old Mr. Boston Whiskey and large cube of ice. Stir very well and decorate with slice of Orange, twist of Lemon Peel and a Cherry. Serve in Old Fashioned Cocktail glass.

An important thing to note in this recipe, besides it being almost the first occurrence of the now famous "Mr. Boston's" bartender guide, is that it clearly provides a measurement of the amount of water being used, and while the term Jigger is not an exact measure, the fact that it is one jigger of water, and two jiggers of whiskey provides an indication that water has become an ingredient in this drink. I won't dwell too much on my own personal opinion of the quality of the Mr. Boston's recounting of cocktail recipes, but suffice it to say that I view this recipe interesting from a historical standpoint, but not as a indication of "the" way to make this drink.

 

"Burke's Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes" (1936) by Harman Burney Burke
OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

Whiskey, 1 Glass Sugar, 1 Lump Angostura Bitters, 2 Dashes Curacao or Absinthe, 2 Dashes Add one Slice or Orange, one Slice of Lemon Peel, mull with the Bitters and Sugar, then add the Whiskey and serve in the same glass.

Absinthe? Now where the heck did that come from? Clearly not a traditional version of this classic cocktail, this recipe does show how you have to realize that the recipes you find are simply an indication of how one person makes it, and is not intended to be an statement of the usage of the recipe world-wide. This is a very important aspect when looking at cocktail recipes, or any recipe for that matter.

 

"Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion" (1941) by Crosby Gaige
Old Fashioned

1 lump Sugar 3 dashes Angostura Bitters 2 ice cubes 1 jigger Rye or Bourbon Splash of Seltzer or 1 tablespoon of Water Place the lump of sugar in an Old Fashioned glass and saturate it with Angostura Bitters. Add the seltzer or water and muddle. Add the ice, a cherry, and a twist of lemon peel. Then pour in the liquor, stir and serve. Serious-minded persons omit fruit salad from "Old Fashioneds," while the frivolous window-dres the brew with slices of orange, sticks of pineapple, and a couple of turnips.

I find this recipe interesting not for its listed recipe, but for the comments included in the instructions for how to construct it. Note that again we see the cherry being used not as a garnish, but (along with the lemon peel) stirred in with the rest of the ingredients. Mr. Gaige also provides some commentary regarding the use of garnishes themselves. His turnip comment of course is intended to be tongue in cheek (but I'm sure you all realized that).

 

"The American Drink Book" (1953) by S. S. Field
OLD FASHIONED:

Muddle 1/2 lump of sugar in a dash of bitters and a splash of soda or water. Add 1 jigger of Whiskey, 2 ice cubes and a slice of orange. Top with a twist of lemon peel.

A dash of Curaçao gives this old standby an elusive touch. Also, try a twist of grapefruit peel for a change.

Here we have a recipe that doesn't have much different then what we have already seen, but we do have a comment from the author about how Orange Curaçao provides an interesting and useful addition to the drink.

 

Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, The (1948-1958) by David A. Embury
OLD-FASHIONED DE LUXE

Pour into each glass 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls simple syrup and add 1 to 3 dashes Angostura. Stir with a spoon to blend the bitters with the syrup. Add about 1 oz. whisky and stir again. Add 2 large cubes of ice, cracked but not crushed (see page 100). Fill glass to within about 3/8" of top with whisky and stir again. Add a twist of lemon and drop peel in the glass. Decorate with a maraschino cherry on a spear. Serve with short stir rod or Old-Fashioned spoon.

If there were one cocktail book that I wish all bartenders would read, it would be this one. And unlike most previous cocktail books, this one isn't just a compendium of recipes, but actually a running and informative commentary by the author. An important thing to note in Mr. Embury's recipe is that instead of simply dissolving sugar in water, he makes his Old Fashioned with simple syrup, which is nothing more then sugar which has already been dissolved in an equal amount of water. I would always be happy with bartenders who served their Old Fashioned with this recipe.

 

"Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender's Guide" (1979, 60th printing) by Mr. Boston Distillers
Old Fashioned Cocktail

Into an old-fashioned glass put a small cube of sugar, a dash of Angostura bitters, a teaspoon of water and muddle well. Add 2 oz. Old Thompson blended Whiskey. Stir. Add twist of lemon peel and ice cubes. Decorate with slice of orange, lemon, and a cherry. Serve with a swizzle stick.

We've already seen one version of this cocktail from 1935, which I indicated was significant in its inappropriateness in how to properly make this drink. I found it extremely interesting to notice that in a more modern reprint of this book we find that they have changed the recipe, and brought it more in-line with how I feel this drink should really be made. I need to remember to check a current edition to see if they have continued with this recipe, or have changed it any further.

 

Bartenders Bible (1991) by Gary Regan
OLD-FASHIONED

3 dashes bitters 1 teaspoon water 1 sugar cube 3 ounces blended whiskey 1 orange slice 1 maraschino cherry In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the bitters and water into the sugar cube, using the back of a teaspoon. Almost fill the glass with ice cubes and add the whiskey. Garnish with the orange slice and the cherry. Serve with a swizzle stick.

We have now stepped into more modern times with our recipes. While there are many recipes published in the meantime, there weren't any significant changes or additions listed. I include this recipe not because it shows anything important or new about the recipe, but simply because it represents the thinking of both a modern day bartender as well as noted bourbon expert Gary Regan.

 

The Book Of Bourbon and Other Fine American Whiskeys (1995) by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan
The Old-Fashioned

This version calls for the addition of a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange -- feel free to omit the fruit if you desire.

1/2 orange slice 1 maraschino cherry, stem removed 3 dashes Orange Bitters #4 (page 269) or Angostura bitters 1 teaspoon water 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar 2 1/2 ounces bourbon

In an old-fashioned glass, combine the orange slice, cherry, bitters, water and sugar. Using the back of a spoon, muddle the ingredients, dissolving the sugar and mashing up the fruit somewhat. Fill the glass with ice cubes, add the bourbon and stir gently.

And here is a recipe for the Old-Fashioned from Mr. Regan, and his wife Mardee, four years later. It hasn't changed much, but it does now include information about muddling in the orange and cherry, which by now has become a fairly common practice.

 

"American Bar : The Artistry of Mixing Drinks " (1995) by Charles Schumann
OLD-FASHIONED

1 sugar cube dashes Angostura bitters 2 oz Bourbon soda stemmed cherry orange lemon

Place sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass, saturate with Angostura, add orange and lemon wedges, press with a pestle, add Bourbon, stir well, add ice cubes, fill with soda or water, stir again, garnish with cherry.

The "American Bar" is an excellent, and classy looking, book of cocktail recipes. In this version of the Old-Fashioned we suddenly see the use of soda water, not as a dissolving ingredient, but now it suddenly has become a "topping off" ingredient to aid in filling up the glass. How much water this adds to the drink clearly is based on the size of the glass being used, but no doubt can be made as to Mr. Schumann's intent here. As we have seen through our historical examination, this clearly departs from the normal recipe for this cocktail, and in my mind represents the beginning of its downfall. Unfortunately, most bartenders will serve you a drink that uses a recipe/process similar to this one if you ask for an Old Fashioned. If you want to assume on face value that Mr. Schumann represents the definitive word on cocktail recipes, then you will unfortunately be making a serious mistake.

 

"Michael Jackson's Bar & Cocktail Companion" (1995) by Michael Jackson
OLD FASHIONED

A classic whiskey cocktail, for which there are countless recipes. The whiskey must be American, and some argue specifically for rye. Some argue that the sugar should be in the form of syrup, others accept cubes muddled with water. Some hold out for Angostura bitters; others favor Peychaud. Some drinkers like a swoosh of soda; others object. Add a twist of lemon to the drink. Garnish with a slice of orange and, if you must, a maraschino cherry. An Old Fashioned can be agreeably embellished with a dash of curaçao.

2 teaspoons sugar syrup, 3 dashes bitters, 1 1/2 oz. rye, twist of lemon slice of orange

Pour sugar syrup and bitters into an Old Fashioned glass and stir thoroughly with a spoon. Add the ice, top up with whiskey, and stir again.

I don't necessarily consider Mr. Jackson as a cocktail expert, but he does have enough experience and authoritative insights to beer and whiskey that I'll listen to his opinions on the matter and make up my own mind. Here, he clearly states the confusion that can accompany the various ways of making this drink, and then thankfully presents a very good recipe. Like Mr. Embury, he uses simple syrup in his drink in order to speed up the process of dissolving the sugar.

A Cocktail In the Old Style

You will of course find the Old Fashioned listed in virtually any modern recipe book for cocktails. The recipe will almost certainly be some variation of one of the recipes above. As we've already stated, the recipe is often attributed to the Pendennis Club, and we've found a listing for a recipe going by this name as far back as 1895. But how old is this recipe, and did it really originate at the Pendennis Club?

Whenever you want to go back as far as you can with a cocktail recipe, your first stop should be the book How To Mix Drinks, which was written by Jerry Thomas back in 1862, and represents the first time that somebody wrote a compilation of recipes for bartenders. If we look through the recipes that he lists, he clearly doesn't list an Old Fashioned cocktail, in fact while he includes over 220 drink recipes in his book, only 10 of them are indicated as being "Cocktails". Of his cocktail recipes and interesting one is one that he lists under the title of simply "Whiskey Cocktail":

 

Bon Vivant's Companion -or- How to Mix Drinks (1862) by Jerry Thomas
109. Whiskey Cocktail (Use small bar glass.)

3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup. 2 do. Bitters (Bogart's) 1 wine-glass of whiskey, and a piece of lemon peel. Fill one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy red wine-glass.

Look at this recipe closely. It includes sugar (in the form of gum syrup, a version of simple syrup), bitters, whiskey, and a lemon peel. Besides the fact that this drink is strained into the glass, it is virtually identical to what would otherwise be easily described as an Old Fashioned.

So let's try going even further back. While Jerry Thomas might have been the first to record the recipe for a specific cocktail, he is not the first to describe the cocktail. That occurred in an American magazine called "The Balance", published in May 1806:

"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters..."

Now if you use Whiskey for the spirit, and add the suggested sugar, water, and bitters, you again have a drink that for all intents and purposes is an Old Fashioned.

If you look at other cocktail recipe books from 1862 until about 1930, you will continue to find recipes for "Whiskey Cocktail" listed, recipes that could easily pass for the Old Fashioned. In fact, in "Old Waldorf Bar Days", which we have already looked at, we find not only a recipe for a Whiskey cocktail, but it also includes a recipe that is listed simply as "Whiskey (Old Style)".

 

"Old Waldorf Bar Days" (1931) by Albert Stevens Crockett
WHISKEY

Dash of Angostura Bitters One dash Gin One jigger of Whiskey Stir; strain

WHISKEY (Old Style)

One-quarter lump Sugar One-half pony of Water One dash Angostura Bitters One lump Ice One jigger Whiskey One piece Lemon Peel Stir

They clearly are calling this "Old Style" since it essentially follows how cocktails were most likely made back in the early 1800's, as described by "The Balance". Looking closely at this recipe, and you could swear you were reading a recipe for an Old Fashioned.

Seen in a New Light

Old Fashioned, Old Style, aren't these two terms that say the same thing? There are many ways to explain what really happened at the Pendennis Club over 100 years ago, but we will never know exactly how things transpired. Did the bartender think he was creating a new recipe, or was he simply introducing a customer to a great old drink? Perhaps the only real role that the Pendennis Club provided, was a particularly memorable occurrence when this drink was served, and with a colorful enough story that the drink has been able to survive until this day. It was specifically through the process of researching this article, that I saw the Old Fashioned that the light suddenly went on for me regarding its history and origins. I had previously taken at face value the story surrounding the Pendennis Club, but I suddenly realized that the beginnings of this cocktail really came long before then.

This realization however, does not explain what has been happening to this cocktail ever since.

As we have seen, a variety of evolutionary steps, and side steps, have happened over the years. We've seen the garnish grow from nothing, into a veritable fruit basket, only to be returned back to a simpler version. We've seen a wide variety of bitters being used, but Angostura appears to always be the one they come back to. And water has had an interesting part in this as well, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, or at times even none at all.

Which of these changes were inspired by genius for the art, and which can best be attributed to misinterpretation, or perhaps just plan laziness? If the answer to this is important to us, then we need to carefully look at each of the changes and attempt to form our own opinions. Which recipe changes improve upong the core concepts of this cocktail, and which detract from it? Where do changes alter the cocktail itself, but not its overall quality? And perhaps more important, which alterations leave the drink intact, but allow you to impart your own personal touch to the results?

For myself, the key concepts I think are important to the Old Fashioned are as follows:

Water is only intended to aid in the dissolving of the sugar, and should be kept to a bare minimum. In fact it can be ommited entirely if you use simple syrup.

A fresh slice of orange, when muddled in the drink at the beginning, adds some interesting and useful flavor notes that play nicely against the bourbon or rye.

A cherry Adds a nice visual touch when used as a garnish at the very end, but is nothing but an ugly mess when its crushed carcass lies at the bottom of your glass.

Soda Water Has no place in this drink. Ever.

Hopefully you have learned something new about the Old Fashioned, and can appreciate it just a little more. And perhaps if you are a bartender yourself, you will have gained a little insight as to the history of this cocktail, and the next time one of your customers orders an Old Fashioned, you'll serve them one that will be as memorable to them as perhaps that one was back in the Pendennis Club over 100 years ago.

 


Appendix

The following is a compilation of many of the Old Fashioned recipes from my library. It includes not only recipes for drinks with Old Fashioned in their name, but also many of the early cocktails which simply called themselves "Whiskey cocktail"

Bon Vivant's Companion -or- How to Mix Drinks (1862) by Jerry Thomas

109. Whiskey Cocktail

(Use small bar glass.)

3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup. 2 do. Bitters (Bogart's) 1 wine-glass of whiskey, and a piece of lemon peel. Fill one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy red wine-glass.

 

"Modern American Drinks" (1895) by George J. Kappeler The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:

"Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass."

"Drinks as they are Mixed" (1904) by Paul E. Lowe

Cocktail, Old Fashioned.

Use old-fashioned cocktail glass. Sugar, 1 lump. Seltzer, 1 dash, and crush sugar with muddler. Ice, one square piece. Orange bitters, 1 dash. Angostura bitters, 1 dash. Lemon peel, 1 piece. Whiskey, 1 jigger. Stir gently and serve with spoon.

Cocktail, Whiskey.

Use bar glass. Ice, 1 lump. Sugar, 1 lump, dissolved. Angostura bitters, 2 dashes. Lemon juice, 1 dash. Whiskey, 1 jigger. Stir and serve.

 

"Jacks Manual" (1908) by Jack. A. Grohusko

OLD FASHION COCKTAILS

1 dash Angostura bitters 1 dash Curacao Piece of cut loaf sugar Dissolve in two spoonfuls of water 100% liquor as desired 1 piece ice in glass. Stir well and twist a piece of lemon peel on top and serve

WHISKEY COCKTAIL

1 dash of Angostura bitters 1 dash of orange Curacao 100% whiskey Fill glass with ice. Stir, strain and serve.

 

"Drinks" (1914) by Jacques Straub

Old Fashioned Cocktail

1 dash Angostura bitters. 2 dashes orange bitters. Piece of cut loaf sugar. Dissolve in two spoonfuls of water. 1 jigger liqueur as desired. Serve in old fashioned glass.

Whiskey Cocktail

2 dashes Angostura bitters. 1 small lump of sugar. 1 jigger bourbon. Piece of lemon peel.

 

Recipes for Mixed Drinks (1916-1917) by Hugo R. Ensslin (of New York's Wallick Hotel)

Old-Fashioned Cocktail (Gin) Use Old Fashioned Cocktail glass. 1/2 piece Domino Sugar 2 dashes Angostura Bitters 1 drink El Bart gin 1 slice Orange Peel 1 slice Lemon Peel 1 slice Pineapple Muddle sugar and bitters, add cube of ice and the Gin, decorate with fruit.

Old Fashioned Cocktail (Whiskey) Made same as above, using Whiskey instead of Gin and 2 dashes Curacao.

 

"The Reminder: Up-to-date Bartenders' vest pocket guide" (1917) by J. A. Didier

OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY COCKTAIL

Use old-fashioned cocktail glass. 1 lump of loaf sugar. 1 dash of syphon water. 1 dash of Aromatic bitters Crush sugar with muddler. 1 slice of lemon or peel. 1 or 2 pieces of ice. 1 drink of whiskey Serve with small bar spoon in glass.

"Cocktails: How to Mix Them" (1922) by Robert

Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Put a piece of sugar in a tumbler with a strong bottom and soak with Angostura Bitters. Reduce it with a muddler or spoon, add ¾ gill of Rye Whisky and a lump of ice. Stir up and drop a little lemon-peel squeezed in the glass. Serve a glass of iced water (a chaser) at the same time, to drink afterwards. It should be noted that the old-fashioned cocktail is prepared and served in the same glass.

"ABC of Mixing Cocktails" (1922?) by Harry McElhone

198. Old-Fashioned Whisky Cocktail

Take a small tumbler and put into it 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters, 1 lump of ice, 1 glass Canadian Club Whisky, 1 tablespoonful Castor Sugar. Stir well until Sugar is dissolved, then squeeze Lemon Peel on top and serve in same glass as mixed.

"The Cocktail Book : A Sideboard Manual For Gentlemen" (1925 New Revised Edition, original edition published in 1900) Issued for The St. Botolph Society By L. C. Page & Company Publishers

Whiskey Cocktail.

Use Mixing Glass. Two dashes gum syrup; two dashes Angostura bitters; one portion rye whiskey. Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon peel.

Whiskey Cocktail -- Fancy.

Use Mixing Glass. Two dashes maraschino; two dashes Boker's bitters; one dash orange bitters; one portion rye whiskey. Fill with ice and mix till very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass, the rim of which has been moistened with lemon juice and dipped into powdered sugar.

Whiskey Cocktail -- Old-fashioned.

Put a lump of sugar in a whiskey glass; add enough hot water to cover the sugar. Crush the sugar; add a lump of ice, two dashes Boker's bitters, one portion whiskey, small piece lemon peel. Mix with small spoon and serve with spoon in glass.

"The Home Bartender's Guide and Song Book" (1930) by Charlie Roe and Jim Schwenck

OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL

A recipe direct from the famous Manhattan Club of New York. If you don't know this one, you just "ain't edjicated."

One lump sugar dissolved in one-fourth glass water Two dashes Angostura Bitters One jigger Rye One piece of ice One piece of Lemon Peel Stir -- serve

The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) by Harry Craddock

OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL.

1 Lump Sugar. 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters. 1 Glass Rye or Canadian Club Whisky. Crush sugar and bitters together, add lump of ice, decorate with twist of lemon peel and slice of orange using medium size glass, and stir well. This Cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc. instead of Rye Whisky.

WHISKY COCKTAIL

1 Dash Angostura Bitters. 4 Dashes Syrup. 1 Glass Canadian Club Whisky. Stir well and strain in cocktail glass. Add a cherry.

"Shake 'Em Up" (1930) by Virginia Elliott & Phil D. Stong

OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL

These should be made in heavy-bottomed glasses manufactured for the purpose. Into each glass put one lump of sugar, dash a little Angostura Bitters onto the sugar, then crush. Drop one cube of ice into the glass, fill with whiskey (rye or Scotch). Garnish with half a ring of orange, or a twist of lemon peel. Do not stir, but serve with a cocktail or coffee spoon.

"Old Waldorf Bar Days" (1931) by Albert Stevens Crockett

OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY

This was brought to the old Waldorf in the days of its "sit-down" Bar, and introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper, of Kentucky, proprietor of a celebrated whiskey of the period. The Old-fashioned Whiskey cocktail was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member. One-quarter lump Sugar Two spoons Water One dash Angostura One jigger Whiskey One piece Lemon Peel One lump Ice Serve with small spoon

WHISKEY

Dash of Angostura Bitters One dash Gin One jigger of Whiskey Stir; strain

WHISKEY (Old Style)

One-quarter lump Sugar One-half pony of Water One dash Angostura Bitters One lump Ice One jigger Whiskey One piece Lemon Peel Stir

"The Art of Mixing" (1932) by Wiley and Griffith

OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY COCKTAIL.

Grab a good sized heavy bottomed glass and put into it 4 dashes Angostura bitters, 1 cube of ice, 1 shot Rye Whiskey, 1 teaspoonful sugar. Stir well until sugar is dissolved, and squeeze lemon peel on top. Drop in a piece of fresh pineapple, a slice of an orange, and offer.

WHISKEY COCKTAIL

1 teaspoonful of sugar syrup, 3 dashes of Angostura, 1 whiskey glass of Scotch or Rye Whiskey. Forget the ice, this is a hot one.

"What'll You Have?" (1933) by Julien J. Proskauer

The Old-Fashioned Cocktail

1 lump sugar 4 dashes Angostura Bitters 1 lump ice 1 glass Rye Whiskey 1 slice orange 1 cherry Stir well until Sugar is dissolved, then squeeze lemon peel on top and serve in same glass used for mixing.

"The Mixologist : For Correct Drinks" (1934) by A. J. Bailey

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Use old fashioned cocktail glass. One piece loaf sugar. Two dashes peychaud bitters. One dash seltzer. Crush sugar with muddler. One cube of ice. Twist of lemon peel. One jigger bourbon whiskey. Stir well and serve with small barspoon. (Whatever liquor desired may be substituted for bourbon.)

Whiskey Cocktail

Use mixing glass half full cracked ice. Twist of lemon peel. Two dashes peychaud bitters. Two dashes gum syrup. One jigger whiskey. Stir well, strain into cocktail glass and serve with cherry.

"Irvin S. Cobb's Own Recipe Book" (1934) by Irvin S. Cobb

OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY:

One-half piece Sugar, 2 dashes Angostura Bitters, 11/2 jiggers Paul Jones or Four Roses Whiskey, 1 slice Orange, 1 slice Lemon, 1 slice Pineapple, 2 dashes Curacao. Muddle sugar and bitters with pestle. Add cube of ice, whiskey and Curacao and decorate with fruit. This cocktail was created at the Pendennis Club in Louisville in honor of a famous old-fashioned Kentucky Colnel. I claim it was worthy of him.

"100 Famous Cocktails" (1934) by Oscar Michel Tschirsky (aka. "Oscar of the Waldorf")

OLD FASHIONED

One lump sugar One dash Abbott's Bitters One jigger Rye Whiskey One-half slice orange, one cherry Stick Pineapple Dash of siphon, lump of ice Serve in old fashioned glass

"Old Mr. Bostons Deluxe Official Bartenders Guide" (1935 Second printing of the first edition) by Leo Cotton

OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

1/2 Lump of Sugar 2 Dashes Bitters 1 Jigger Water

Muddle well, then add Jigger Old Mr. Boston Whiskey and large cube of ice. Stir very well and decorate with slice of Orange, twist of Lemon Peel and a Cherry. Serve in Old Fashioned Cocktail glass.

"The Art of Mixing Drinks" (1935) Ginrum Alpha Company

Old Fashioned Cocktail

1 Lump of sugar 1 Teaspoonful of Carbonated water 2 Dashes bitters 1 Jigger whisky

In a thick-bottomed old fashioned glass, crush the sugar in the water and bitters, add the whisky and a cube of ice, stir and dress with a cherry, slice of orange and a twist of lemon peel.

Whisky Cocktail

2 or 3 dashes gum syrup 1 or 2 dashes Angostura bitters 1 or 2 dashes Curacoa 1 Jigger whisky Twist a piece of lemon peel on top and serve

"Burke's Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes" (1936) by Harman Burney Burke

OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

Whiskey, 1 Glass Sugar, 1 Lump Angostura Bitters, 2 Dashes Curacao or Absinthe, 2 Dashes Add one Slice or Orange, one Slice of Lemon Peel, mull with the Bitters and Sugar, then add the Whiskey and serve in the same glass.

"Cocktail Fashions of 1936" (1936) by Adrian

OLD FASHION

A dash Angostura bitters on a lump of sugar in old fashioned glass. Add small piece of lemon peel and crush together. Add slice of orange, piece of pineapple, and two cubes of ice. Fill with rye whiskey.

"Just Cocktails" (1939) by W. C. Whitfield

OLD FASHIONED

1 JIGGER BOURBON 2 DASHES ANGOSTURA BITTERS 1/2 LUMP SUGAR 2 SPOONS WATER STIR AND THEN ADD LUMP OF ICE AND PIECES OF LEMON AND ORANGE.

OLD FASHIONED (NO. 2) 1 JIGGER RYE 1 DASH ANGOSTURA BITTERS 2 DASHES ORANGE BITTERS 1 LUMP SUGAR (CRUSHED) 1 LUMP OF ICE DECORATE WITH LEMON AND ORANGE.

The Official Mixer's Manual (1940) by Patrick Gavin Duffy

Old Fashioned Cocktail (Whiskey)

1/2 piece Domino Sugar 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters 1 Drink Whiskey 1 Slice Orange Peel 1 Slice Lemon Peel 1 Slice Pineapple 2 Dashes Curacao Muddle sugar and bitters, add cube of ice and the Whiskey and decorate with fruit. Use glass number 13

"The How and When" (1938) by Marco

Old Fashioned Cocktail

1/4 lump of Sugar 2 spoons water 1 dash Angostura Muddle mixture in Old Fashioned Glass Add 1 jigger Whiskey 1 lump ice -- stir Dress with Fruits

"Here's How" (1941) by W. C. Whitfield

OLD FASHIONED

1 JIGGER BOURBON 2 DASHES ANGOSTURA BITTERS 1/2 LUMP SUGAR 2 TEASPOONS WATER STIR WELL, ADD CUBE OF ICE AND PIECES OF LEMON AND ORANGE.

"Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion" (1941) by Crosby Gaige

Old Fashioned

1 lump Sugar 3 dashes Angostura Bitters 2 ice cubes 1 jigger Rye or Bourbon Splash of Seltzer or 1 tablespoon of Water

Place the lump of sugar in an Old Fashioned glass and saturate it with Angostura Bitters. Add the seltzer or water and muddle. Add the ice, a cherry, and a twist of lemon peel. Then pour in the liquor, stir and serve. Serious-minded persons omit fruit salad from "Old Fashioneds," while the frivolous window-dres the brew with slices of orange, sticks of pineapple, and a couple of turnips.

In the same manner is made the Scotch or the Rum or the Irish Whiskey "Old Fashioned." Even Gin or Brandy is occasionally used.

"The Standard Cocktail Guide" (1944) by Crosby Gaige

OLD FASHIONED

Muddle 1 lump of Sugar with 4 dashes Angostura Bitters. Add a splash of Soda Water, 2 ice cubes, a Cherry and a twist of Lemon Peel. Pour over 1 jigger of Rye and serve with stir rod. This drink may be garnished with a stick of Pineapple and 1/2 an Orange slice, or better still, served with no fruit except a slice of lemon peel.

NOTE: Old Fashioned Cocktails may be made with Bourbon, Scotch or Brandy, Rum and Applejack as well as with Rye.

"Bartenders Guide" (1947) by Trader Vic

OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL -- 1

1/2 cube sugar 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 dashes curaçao 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon 1 strip orange peel 1 strip lemon peel

Muddle sugar and bitters, add cube of ice, curaçao, and whisky; stir and decorate with a slice of pinapple.

OLD-FASHIONED COCKTAIL -- 2

1/2 cube sugar 1 dash Angostura bitters 1 squirt seltzer 1 1/2 oz. rye or bourbon 1 large piece ice

Muddle sugar and bitters; add ice and whisky; stir and decorate with cherry and slice of orange on toothpick.

"Esquire's Handbook For Hosts" (1949) by Esquire Inc.

THE OLD-FASHIONED

Them what likes their Old-Fashioneds without sugar, without bitters, without water or seltzer, without ice and certainly without fruit are just too old-fashioned to name their drink as "straight whiskey, please." Actually, the only debatable part of an Old-Fashioned is the fruit garnish -- the cherry, orange-slice and sometime stick of pineapple which serious drinkers claim interfere with their Old-Fashioned elbo-bending. Here's how!

OLD-FASHIONED In a squatty, robust-bottomed tumbler of the type designed for and dedicated to this drink, place a lump of sugar. Wet this down with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. (Some use 2 teaspoons of water, as well. Many prefer only 1 or 2 dashes bitters.) Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, preferably one which has never been washed nor used for any less worthy purpose. Rotate glass so that sugar grains and bitters give it a lining, then add a crystal-clear lump of ice. Now pour in 1 1/2 oz. bourbon or rye. Twist a bit of lemon peel over the top.

A Maraschino cherry, a slice of orange and a chunk of fresh or canned pineapple may be added; the drink may be given a final stir . . . but in both cases fall back for criticism from Old-Fashioned addicts.

Variation: add a dash of Curacao. Try reducing sugar to 1/4 lump. Equal amount of granulated sugar may be used, but be sure to muddle.

ECCENTRIC OLD-FASHIONED 1 complete lemon peel squeezed into glass 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon Curaçao 2 ounces whiskey Shake well but do not strain and serve in glass garnished with slices of pineapple, orange and cherries.

"The Bartenders Book" (1951) by Jack Townsend & Tome Moore McBride

OLD-FASHIONED

1 1/2 oz. rye 1 lump sugar dash of soda 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Use an Old-Fashioned glass. Muddle sugar in a little soda until dissolved. Add two dashes Angostura bitters and a good-sized ice cube. Pour in whisky. Stir. Decorate with fruit or twist of lemon peel. Serve with stirring rod.

"The American Drink Book" (1953) by S. S. Field

OLD FASHIONED:

Muddle 1/2 lump of sugar in a dash of bitters and a splash of soda or water. Add 1 jigger of Whiskey, 2 ice cubes and a slice of orange. Top with a twist of lemon peel. A dash of Curacao gives this old standby an elusive touch. Also, try a twist of grapefruit peel for a change.

"The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks" (1948-1958) by David A. Embury

THE OLD-FASHIONED

If properly made, this is a truly magnificent cocktail. The principal reason that it does not enjoy an even greater popularity than it now claims is that what is usually served as an Old-Fashioned is actually a short Highball rather than a cocktail. Water, either plain or charged has no more place in an Old-fashioned than it has in a Manhattan or a Martini. The water is usually added ostensibly for the purpose of dissolving the sugar. You can make perfect Old-Fashioneds only by using sugar syrup. However, if you do not have sugar syrup available you can make a fairly passable cocktail by using loaf sugar as follows:

Put one medium-sized lump of sugar in the Old-Fashioned glass and add enough lukewarm water to cover it completely. Watch carefully until the sugar starts to dissolve and then pour off all the water. Add three dashes of Angostura, crush the sugar with a muddler, and blend sugar and bitters thoroughly. Add a small quantity of whisky and stir with a small spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved and blended with the liquor. Then, and then only, complete the cocktail. It takes about twenty minutes to make a satisfactory Old-Fashioned starting with dry sugar; it takes about two minutes starting with sugar syrup. Also, the sugar syrup makes a smoother, better drink. Therefore, let's make our Old-Fashiones this way, using medium-sized Old-Fashioned glasses (about 5 to 7 ounces):

OLD-FASHIONED DE LUXE Pour into each glass 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls simple syrup and add 1 to 3 dashes Angostura. Stir with a spoon to blend the bitters with the syrup. Add about 1 oz. whisky and stir again. Add 2 large cubes of ice, cracked but not crushed (see page 100). Fill glass to within about 3/8" of top with whisky and stir again. Add a twist of lemon and drop peel in the glass. Decorate with a maraschino cherry on a spear. Serve with short stir rod or Old-Fashioned spoon.

I have been intentionally somewhat indefinite about the quantity of sugar and bitters for two reasons. First, you should experiment and determine for yourself just how sweet you like the drink and just how much of the bitters flavor suits you best. Second, I have stated the recipe in terms of filling your Old-Fashioned glasses to within about 3/8" of the top and I do not know the exact size of your glasses. Tastes vary somewhat, of course, but I have found that most people like about 1 teaspoonful of sugar and 1 to 2 dashes of Angostura to each 2 ounces of whisky.

Also, please note that I have suggested only a cherry and a bit of lemon peel for decorations. You will frequently find Old-Fashioneds served with lemon, orange, cherry, and pineapple. The bartenders' manuals of the Gay Nineties were replete with illustrations of cocktails, Sours, Crustas, Smashes, Cobblers, and other drinks decorated with all the above fruits together with strawberries, grapes, raspberries, etc., according to the available supply and the fancy of the writer. At the other extreme stand those who contemptuously refer to any cocktail decoration as "the garbage." My own opinion is that fruit flavors and liquors blend exquisitely and that, for a midafternoon or an evening drink, and Old-Fashioned is greatly improved in its over-all appeal by the judicious addition of a few fruits. Fruits, however, properly belong at the end of a dinner rather than at the beginning. Accordingly, when serving Old-Fashioneds as an aperitif, I recommend using only the lemon peel with no fruit at all, or at the most, a cherry or a slice of orange.

Note that in the Old-Fashioned the only modifying agents used are the bitters and sugar. The reaction time of this cocktail is slower than that of a Martini both because of its sugar content and because the whisky is slower than gin. Don't be deceived by this. It is not a lighter drink than the Martini; it is stronger. Its action is merely delayed.

As an occasional variation in you Old-Fashioned try adding a teaspoonful of the juice from your bottle of maraschino cherries or a dash of curaçao, Cointreau, Chartreuse, or Liqueur Strega.

Old-Fashioneds are also frequently made with liquors other than rye or bourbon. SOUTHERN COMFORT makes and excellent OLD-FASHIONED but is a bit on the sweet side. This can be offset by using less sugar. There are also GIN OLD-FASHIONEDS, SCOTCH OLD-FASHIONEDS, BRANDY OLD-FASHIONEDS, RUM OLD-FASHIONEDS, APPLEJACK OLD-FASHIONEDS, etc. All are made exactly the same as the Whisky Old-Fashioned except for the liquor used. With Gin and Rum Old-Fashioneds, orange bitters may be substituted for or used in combination with Angostura.

"International Guide To Drinks" (1953-1965) by UKBG (United Kingdom Bartenders Guild)

Old Fashioned

Use Old Fashioned Glass. 1 Dash Angostura Bitters. On small Lump of Sugar. Enough water to dissolve Sugar. 2 oz. Rye or Bourbon Whiskey A large piece of ice. Add 1/2 slice Orange. 1 Cherry Serve with stirring rod.

"The Diners' Club Drink Book" (1961) by Matty Simmons

OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL

1/2 lump sugar 2 dashes bitters Add enough water to cover sugar and muddle well in old fashioned glass. 1 cube of ice 2 oz. Whiskey Stir well. Add twist of lemon rind and drop in glass. Decorate with slice of orange, lemon and a cherry. Serve with stirring rod.

"Mr. Boston Deluxe Official Bartender's Guide" (1979, 60th printing) by Mr. Boston Distillers

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Into an old-fashioned glass put a small cube of sugar, a dash of Angostura bitters, a teaspoon of water and muddle well. Add 2 oz. Old Thompson blended Whiskey. Stir. Add twist of lemon peel and ice cubes. Decorate with slice of orange, lemon, and a cherry. Serve with a swizzle stick.

"The Bartenders Bible" (1991) by Gary Regan

OLD-FASHIONED

The classic Old-Fashioned is made with blended whiskey. The original was concocted at the Pendenis Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

There used to be seven distilleries in Louisville, and it is said that a representative from one of them concocted the drink for a retired Civil War general who didn't care much for the taste of whiskey, but who, like a good general should, really did enjoy the effect. Fortunately, though the name of the general and the distillery seem to be lost forever, on e longtime employee at the Pendenis does remember that the original Old-Fashioned used branch water, as opposed to tap water. Branch water is merely a southern term for bottled water, so if you are making the drink for a special occasion, open a bottle of whatever designer water you have around. American water is preferred, of course.

Variations include the Bourbon Old-Fashioned and the Scotch Old-Fashioned.

3 dashes bitters 1 teaspoon water 1 sugar cube 3 ounces blended whiskey 1 orange slice 1 maraschino cherry

In an old-fashioned glass, muddle the bitters and water into the sugar cube, using the back of a teaspoon. Almost fill the glass with ice cubes and add the whiskey. Garnish with the orange slice and the cherry. Serve with a swizzle stick.

"The Book Of Bourbon" (1995) by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan

The Old-Fashioned

The Old-Fashioned was first concocted at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, where one of the regular customers was a retired Civil War general who didn't care much for the taste of straight whiskey. (In Kentucky, disliking bourbon is tantamount to treason.) To accommodate the veteran, the bartender at the club added a little sugar, a couple dashes of bitters and a few drops of branch water to the whiskey, unknowingly creating the Old-Fashioned for the old-timer. This version calls for the addition of a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange -- feel free to omit the fruit if you desire.

1/2 orange slice 1 maraschino cherry, stem removed 3 dashes Orange Bitters #4 (page 269) or Angostura bitters 1 teaspoon water 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar 2 1/2 ounces bourbon

In an old-fashioned glass, combine the orange slice, cherry, bitters, water and sugar. Using the back of a spoon, muddle the ingredients, dissolving the sugar and mashing up the fruit somewhat. Fill the glass with ice cubes, add the bourbon and stir gently.

"American Bar" (1995) by Charles Schumann

OLD-FASHIONED

1 sugar cube dashes Angostura bitters 2 oz Bourbon soda stemmed cherry orange lemon

Place sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass, saturate with Angostura, add orange and lemon wedges, press with a pestle, add Bourbon, stir well, add ice cubes, fill with soda or water, stir again, garnish with cherry.

"Michael Jackson's Bar & Cocktail Companion" (1995) by Michael Jackson

OLD FASHIONED

A classic whiskey cocktail, for which there are countless recipes. The whiskey must be American, and some argue specifically for rye. Some argue that the sugar should be in the form of syrup, others accept cubes muddled with water. Some hold out for Angostura bitters; others favor Peychaud. Some drinkers like a swoosh of soda; others object.

Add a twist of lemon to the drink. Garnish with a slice of orange and, if you must, a maraschino cherry. An Old Fashioned can be agreeably embellished with a dash of curaçao.

2 teaspoons sugar syrup, 3 dashes bitters, 1 1/2 oz. rye, twist of lemon slice of orange

Pour sugar syrup and bitters into an Old Fashioned glass and stir thoroughly with a spoon. Add the ice, top up with whiskey, and stir again.

"The NEW New York Bartender's Guide" (1997) by Sally Ann Berk

OLD FASHIONED

4 parts blended whiskey, bourbon, or rye (2 oz.) Sugar cube Dash Angostura bitters Water (1 tsp.) Lemon twist

Place a sugar cube in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add bitters and water. Muddle until sugar is dissolved. Add the whiskey and stir. Add lemon twist and ice cubes.

Classic Cocktails (1997) by Salvatore Calabrese

Old-Fashioned

Colonel James E. Pepper, a Kentucky-based distiller of bourbon, and the bartender of the Pendennis Club, Louisville, were jointly responsible for the creation of this cocktail around 1900. Once referred to as a "palate-paralyser" by bartender David Embury, the old-fashioned is a cocktail with a song in its honour, Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please by Cole Porter. The name is also associated with a glass and hence is always on someone's lips.

METHOD: build GLASS: old-fashioned 5cl / 1 3/4 oz bourbon whiskey 1 dash Angostura bitters 1 white sugar cube soda water

Place the sugar cube in the glass and soak the sugar with Angostura bitters. Add a splash of soda (to cover the sugar cube) and crush the cube with the back of the bar spoon. Add the whiskey, then fill the glass. Stir and garnish with a slice of orange and a Maraschino cherry, and add a twist of lemon.

Bartending for Dummies (1997) by Ray Foley

Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz. American or Canadian Whisk(e)y 1/4 tsp. Superfine sugar 2 dashes Angostura Bitters splash Club Soda Cherry and Orange Slice

Muddle the Cherry (without stem), Orange Slice, Sugar, and a splash of Club Soda. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.

You can also use Scotch, Brandy, or just about any other spirit in this drink.

"Cocktail: The Drinks Bible For The 21st Century" (1998) by Paul Harrington and Laura Moorehead

Old Fashioned

2 ounces whiskey 2 dashes Angostura bitters 1 teaspoon sugar Splash soda water

In chilled Old Fashioned glass, muddle sugar, bitters, orange wheel, and maraschino cherry until sugar is dissolved. Add whiskey and ice, and stir. Optional: Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Old Fashioned cocktail provides and adequate test of mixing skills for a host. Versatile and simple to make, this drink lets hosts relax and guests feel special.

When catering to the requests of guests, keep in mind that varying the amount of bitters and sugar allows for flexibility with this drink. Another option is to add a dash of orange liqueur such as curaçao or Cointreau.

Old Fashioned aficionados may bicker with you about whether this drink should be made with simple syrup or with a sugar cube. From the imbiber's perspective, simple syrup sweetens the whole drink, while an adequately muddled sugar cube sweetens primarily the last few sips.

"The Ultimate A-to-Z Bar Guide" (1998) by Sharon Tyelr Herbst & Ron Herbst

Old-Fashioned

Another classic cocktail for which the "perfect recipe" is hotly debated. Some like rye, others bourbon; some insist on sugar syrup instead of a sugar cube; others demand a specific brand of bitters. Then there are some who love the fruit garnish while others consider it déclassé; and for some an Old-Fashioned would be incomplete without a splash of soda. Whatever your preference, you have a late 1880's bartender of Louisville, Kentucky's exclusive Pendennis Club to thank for this popular concoction. This classic cocktail spawned the squat, eponymous Old-Fashieond glass.

1 sugar cube or 2 tsp. Sugar syrup 1 to 2 dashes (about 1/16 to 1/8 tsp.) Angostura bitters 1 tsp. Water 2 oz. (1/4 cup) blended whiskey lemon twist orange slice maraschino cherry

Put first 3 ingredients into chilled glass; muddle until sugar dissolves. (If using sugar syrup, simply stir first 3 ingredients together.) Fill glass with ice cubes; stir in whiskey and lemon twist. Garnish with orange slice and cherry. Variation Add 1/16 to 1/8 tsp. Cointreau Brandy Old-Fashioned Substitute brandy for the whiskey. Canadian Old-Fashioned Substitute Canadian whisky for blended whiskey; add 1 tsp. Cointreau and 1/8 tsp fresh lemon juice.

"Cocktail-O-Matic: the little black book of Cocktail" (1998) by Suzanne Matczuk

OLD FASHIONED

2 to 3 oz bourbon or rye 1 tsp sugar 2 dashes of bitters garnish lemon twist

Muddle the sugar and bitters with a splash of water in an old-fashioned or rocks glass. Fill the glass with ice and bourbon or rye, or in a pinch, even blended whiskey.

The old fashioned has always been an old standard. It was one of the staple drinks at the swank Hoffman House in New York in the 1880s, and even in 1934 after Prohibition it still made it onto Esquire's top ten list of cocktails. The rest of the list included classics like the dry martini, dry Ward 8, vermouth cassis, the champagne cocktail, and the new hits: Planter's punch, old fashioned Dutch, harvest moon, and the vodka cocktail. Esquire also waved bye-bye to the sissy drinks: the Bronx, Alexander, pousse-café, sweetheart, orange blossom, pink lady, clover club, fluffy ruffles, and the cream fizz. (Pousse-cafés are those little glasses full of liqueurs poured in rainbow coloured layers. The bright idea for the shooter peut-etre?)

"The World's Best bartenders' Guide" (1998) by Joseph Scott & Donald Bain

OLD FASHIONED

There are those (not many) who swear by Old Fashioneds made with Scotch, or even with tequila. It's your home bar; you're free to do what you wish.

We've seen bartenders muddle the cherry right along with the other ingredients. This is anathema to Paul Mallory of Portland's Higgins Bar and Restaurant. "Don't muddle the cherry" he says with conviction.

For Robert Brady, barman at Chicago's Capital Grille, the secret to making a good Old Fashioned is to pour a half ounce of whatever liquor you're using into the glass before muddling the fruit. This, he says, helps break down the fruit, resulting in a better drink.

Salvatore Calabrese at The Library Bar in London's Lanesborough Hotel likes to make his Old Fashioneds with bourbon rather than rye, and we couldn't agree with him more. After all, the drink was invented at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in honor of a retired Civil War general, so the likelihood is that bourbon was the original spirit base. Salvatore also uses soda rather than water to help muddle the sugar and bitters. Perhaps it dissolves the sugar cube more rapidly.

Eddie Doyle of the Bull 'n Finch Pub (Cheers), Boston, seconds Salvatore's selection: "Bourbon, of course."

"Muddle, muddle, muddle is the secret to a good Old Fashioned," according to Gary Egan at Pete's Tavern in New York City.

CLASSIC OLD FASHIONED 1 DASH OF ANGOSTURA BITTERS 1 SUGAR CUBE 1 TEASPOON WATER 2 OZ. RYE WHISKEY LEMON TWIST ORANGE SLICE AND MARASCHINO CHERRY FOR GARNISH

Muddle up the bitters, sugar, and water in an old-fashioned glass. Add the whiskey and stir. Add ice and stir again. Rim glass with a lemon twist. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

Note The original recipe calls for a cube of sugar, not granulated or refined. Also, the original recipe calls for "branch water," which is nothing more than bottled water. Any brand will do.

"Straight Up Or On The Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail" (2001) by William Grimes

OLD-FASHIONED

The invention of the old-fashioned -- an abbreviated name for "old fashioned whiskey cocktail" -- has often been credited to the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. According to the legend, Colonel James E. Pepper, a noted bourbon distiller, brought the recipe east when he traveled on business. The actual facts remain to be discovered. There's no question, though, that the old-fashioned is one of the oldest American cocktails, and one of the best. Unfortunately, at some point Carbonated water made its way into the recipe. It should not be used.

2-3 ounces bourbon 1 dash Angostura bitters 1 cube sugar (or 1 dash simple syrup) Twist of lemon 1 maraschino cherry (optional)

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, muddle the sugar cube with a few drops of water and a dash of Angostura bitters (or mix a dash of simple syrup and the bitters). Add bourbon and ice cubes. Garnish with the lemon twist and, if desired, a maraschino cherry.

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