Leave out the garbage and make mine the old fashioned way!

The Old Fashioned is a drink that is so obvious that it hardly seems worth writing about. However, I would be wrong. This drink is not written about nearly enough. If it were more people would be making them and fewer bartenders would be screwing them up. Back in the day, the old fashioned wasn’t old fashioned, yet, and was simply referred to as a cocktail. It consisted of your liquor of choice, a little sugar and water, and a few dashes of bitters (for medicinal purposes). As cocktails evolved and more ingredients were added, a splash of this, a dash of that, the old fashioned was born out of necessity. When things change, there are always those who will resist. What was wrong with the way the cocktails used to be made? Who needs any of that fancy-pants, Frenchy liqueur or “garbage” (garnish) in your whiskey? Bartender, make me a cocktail the old fashioned way! In this case, the stick-in-the-muds were correct. The Old Fashioned is a dandy little drink.


Illustration from The Savoy Cocktail Book

Old Fashioned (The Whiskey Cocktail)

2 oz Whiskey

1 tsp. Simple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In an old fashioned or rocks glass add simple syrup and bitters and give a quick stir. Add ice, then whiskey. Squeeze a lemon peel if using rye, or an orange peel if drinking bourbon, over the drink and drop it in the glass. Stir again. Garnish with a cherry if so desired and serve with a short stir stick or straw. Enjoy.

Originally, this drink was made with sugar and a dash of water muddled with the bitters. It can still be made that way, but simple syrup is far easier, will give you a smoother drink by avoiding the grit of any undissolved sugar, and is much, much faster to make. Except for the grit from using granulated sugar, the drinks will taste the same.

Today, whiskey is the liquor most associated with the Old Fashioned, but they can be made using brandy, rum, or gin, thus creating a Brandy Cocktail, a Rum Cocktail, or a Gin Cocktail.

Simple variations on this theme are legion. Not only can you switch out the base liquor, you can change the sweetener, though, technically, it is no longer an Old Fashioned. For example, replace the sugar with grenadine and you have a Club Cocktail. Replace it with curacao and you’ve made the Approve Cocktail. But hey, experiment away and call it what you will. I like my Old Fashioneds the old fashioned way.

For those interested in an exhaustive look at the history of the Old Fashioned Cocktail, I suggest Robert Hess’s article on the subject.