Friday Afternoon Cocktail: The Old Fashioned

I had the pleasure recently of meeting VodkaPundit (pictured at right, with yours truly and Will Franklin), a true gentleman of letters and of liquor. Knowing his arena of expertise, I inquired as to his favorite cocktail of the moment – and was stunned to learn that did not contain the ingredient of his liquid nom de guerre.

“No,” he told me, “I’m drinking Old Fashioneds.”

The Old Fashioned is a classic, and there are many ways to make them. Here’s one of the earliest recipes, from the 1895 edition of Modern American Drinks by George J. Kappeler:

“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 [1.5 fl oz or 44 ml] whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.”

There is a wide variance in styles and approaches, but the center of a good Old Fashioned is good bourbon. VodkaPundit’s preference is for Gentleman Jack, which makes for a sweeter, smoother Old Fashioned. My own preference is for Blanton’s or Woodford Reserve, but there are many other directions you could go in depending on your tastes.

What is key, from my perspective, is not to overwhelm the Old Fashioned with too much fruit. If you order an Old Fashioned in a less than ideal establishment, you’re likely to end up with a mashed up cherry and a big slice of orange in your glass. This is an insult, primarily because it is taking up space – more fruit means less bourbon!

Thus, I present my modified Old Fashioned recipe, which is simple:

  • 2 shots bourbon

  • Sugar Cube
  • 1 dash Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic bitters
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 slice orange peel

Put the sugar cube in the bottom of your Old Fashioned glass. Wet it down with a dash of Angostura bitters and, if you have it, Fee Brothers’ Old Fashioned Aromatic (not required, but I recommend it). Muddle the sugar cube around the bottom of the glass with a spoon or muddler – if you like, you can add a dash of club soda to spread it a bit more (I recommend against it). Add a slice of orange peel if you feel like it – that’s the most fruit I’d ever recommend – and a nice chunk of ice. Finally, pour in bourbon. I have 2 shots up there, but Kingsley Amis’s recommendation was simpler: “a huge slug of whiskey.” And that’s the most important part.