The Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail Features Little More Than Whiskey Sugar And Bitters Done Right It’s A Perfectly Balanced Timeless Crowd
- Bitters add complexity and dimension to the bourbon or rye.
- Sugar brings subtle sweetness to open the bourbon’s aroma.
- Toasted sugar tastes less sweet than plain, and can add a subtle note of caramel to play off the bourbon or rye.
The Old Fashioned is one of the most venerable of cocktails, predating not only the motorcar but the presidency of Abe Lincoln. All it takes is serving whiskey, sugar, bitters and, if you like, a cherry or orange garnish on the rocks. Properly made, it’s strong but not too strong, sweet but not too sweet, and, most importantly, it’s dead-simple and absolutely delicious.
The best bitters for an Old Fashioned are up for debate, but Angostura is classic for a reason, while Fee Brothers offer a welcome alternative.
Do: Add An Orange Peel If Youd Like
Of all the additions to the Old Fashioned over the years, the orange peel has become the most welcome. However, its also best not to add an entire orange slide and muddle it in the glass. Instead, use only a portion of the peel, shaved off the fruit with as little pith as possible, as your garnish.
Final Thoughts On The Old Fashioned
T: What else about this drink? I think thats been an incredible rundown of the way that you approach it. I dont want to put words in your mouth. I feel like youre of the camp that, this is the way that I approach it, people can have their own way. Whats more important is maybe why youre thinking about each thing, right?
E: Im a creature of habit. I love the process. I love consistency. I am kind of an old dullard or an old soul when it comes to how I build out the bar, how I do the mise en place, and the recipes that Ive come to know and love. This is just what I do in my house. Ive had numerous other Old Fashioneds, and theyre usually really good when you can see and sense real attention to process and detail. Youve been to a bar where it feels like, Man, this is sloppy. Its going to end up in the drink. Theres no two ways about it. Form and function do have a huge effect on results.
E: Oh my God. I love that youre bringing this up, because it is. We all have a Spidey sense. Theres a sixth sense. I can walk into The Varnish and tell you the three things that might not be right the lights, the music, the temperature. If somebody is shaking and their rock of ice exploded before the drink was actually fully shaken, it is sound. So much of it is sound. I hate when bartenders slam their tins at the top with another tin. Like, why are you doing that? Just use the palm of your hand. Sound is very important.
E: I mean, Ive got some more for you.
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The Best Whiskey For An Old Fashioned
The best whiskey for an Old Fashioned is … the whiskey you like! Many reputable mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts have opined on whether you should use rye or bourbon, but honestly, you can use either. Which do you prefer? There that’s your whiskey for an Old Fashioned!
I like this drink with bourbon. I used Buffalo Trace most recently, but other mid-tier bourbons like Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, or Knob Creek would all be excellent choices.
Check Out The Conversation Here
Tim McKirdy: Hey, this is Tim McKirdy, and welcome to VinePairs Cocktail College, a weekly deep dive into classic cocktails that goes beyond the recipe with Americas best bartenders. The Old Fashioned might not lay claim to the title of worlds oldest cocktail, but its influence on modern mixology, and its place in popular culture is unquestionable. Put simply, in todays world, any bartender worth their salt has to have perfected the Old Fashioned. Today, were going to learn how to do that with Eric Alperin, best known as the co-owner of The Varnish in L.A., a bar he opened in 2009 with his mentor, the late Sasha Petraske. Beyond ingredients, ratios, and building techniques, were going to explore things like the importance of ice, the overlap of theater and mixology, and why this drink, more than any other, is so closely tied to the revival of cocktail culture. Well also hear from Eric about how he schooled one of Hollywoods biggest names on how to make the Old Fashioned, which culminated in what is, perhaps, the best cocktail creation scene in cinematic history. Do you know which one were talking about? Buckle up, listener. Were about to find out. Eric Alperin, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining us.
Eric Alperin: Absolutely, Tim. Thanks for having me on this inaugural journey. I think this is No. 1, right?
T: This is No. 1. Im looking forward to taking these first steps with you in the audio land.
E: We will bravely go together.
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The New Old Fashioned Cocktail
Who wants a drink? Its been a long week. Lets relax with an Old Fashioned, one of the oldest cocktails around. The Old Fashioned is for whiskey lovers, certainly, but it also might convince naysayers to become whiskey cocktail drinkers after all.
Like mulled wine, the Old Fashioned is perfect during the holidays, on chilly evenings, and basically any time you find yourself sitting around a fire. Its a bold, dynamic drink thats a little citrusy and a little sweet.
I came up with one delicious twist on the classic recipe, which also happens to be a shortcut. If youve been following this blog for a while, I bet you can guess what it is.
Thats right, I used maple syrup instead of simple syrup. Historically, Old Fashioned cocktails are made with a sugar cube or simple syrup. Im here to tell you that they taste better with maple syrup, which complements bourbons caramel notes and stirs in like a dream.
Back when the Old Fashioned gained popularity, maple syrup was not readily accessible. Lucky for us, it is now. This recipe yields the best Old Fashioned youll ever make at home. I hope youll give it a try!
Whats The Best Way To Add An Orange To An Old Fashioned
This shouldnt be a huge issue, right? Just get a little orange in there. Wrong.
We found numerous restaurants and recipes calling for different ways to add the orange into the cocktail. This included:
- Muddle in an orange slice
- Squeeze an orange slice over the drink
- Spritz an orange peel over the drink
- Some combination of the above
An orange peel spritzed over the drink was the perfect balance. Although muddling in an orange slice is a fun infusion, it too easily overpowered the drink and ruined the overall flavor.
Spritzing an orange peel gave the right citrus zest but didnt ruin the otherwise deep flavors of the drink.
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Dont: Muddle Your Cherries
If you prefer your Old Fashioned with a cherry, just make sure not to muddle it in the glass. This is not a drink that needs a bold punch of cherry flavor or fruit floating around. Instead, add it later as a garnish, and make sure to opt for a brand such as Luxardo over the neon maraschino cherry, which is full of chemicals and dye.
The Best Old Fashioned Whiskey
The old fashioned is an American cocktail, so using an American whiskey such as bourbon or rye is essential. You can use Scotch, Irish, or Japanese whiskies if you would like, but its both a waste and not really an old fashioned.
I prefer bourbon over rye out of respect for where the old fashioned comes from , but rye, aka Canadian whisky, is a good change up sometimes for its spicier and harsher flavor profile.
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A Traditional Old Fashioned
Whiskey seems to be the alcohol of choice, but you also use bourbon or rye. The traditional recipe uses 2 ounces of whiskey, followed by sugar, orange peel, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters.
Throughout the years, people have added soda water, powdered sugar, cherries, pineapples, and other sweet, juicy fruits. The result is a tasty, refreshing cocktail that appeals to just about anyone.
So thats the effect were going for here, which can be done in several different ways. The key is muddled fruit, which starts with picking the right type of fruit.
Four Roses Single Barrel
According to Desoblin, a high rye content makes the cocktail come alive with character, and this bourbon does the trick. With its rye-forward mash bill, it has the spicy, herbal, and fruity notes that an Old Fashioned asks for. And at 100 proof, its powerful enough to show up strong even after dilution, Krueger notes. Its big fruit flavors are really satisfying.
What Does Four Roses Single Barrel Cost?
Four Roses Single Barrel costs around $30 per bottle.
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Variations On An Old Fashioned
“In the early cocktail culture, old fashioneds were strictly designated for just whiskey,” says Baker. “Now, is used to describe a style of a cocktail, so you could technically use any spirit and turn it into an old fashioned.”
Some popular variations include:
Quick tip: There are a few ways to balance your cocktail if it isn’t quite right, according to Baker.
- If it is too sweet, add a couple more dashes of bitters
- If it is too strong, put it back into the mixing glass over ice and stir it for another 5 seconds.
- If it is too bitter, add another 0.25 ounces more of sweetener.
Why Is It Called An Old
Modern drinkers can relate to the story of the old-fashioned. This cocktail sparked the same type of “old versus new” debates in the late 19th-century bar that modern “martini” menus produce today. In truth, the old-fashioned was considered “old-fashioned” over a hundred years ago.
Around the 1880s, the American cocktail scene really started to boom. Bartenders were creating new drinks with curaçao, absinthe, syrups, and fruit juices, and they were a hit. There were, of course, the holdouts, those nostalgic drinkers who wanted a simple drink with a kick like they got in the “old days.” To them, all of the fancy stuff was a waste of time. After countless newspaper editorials and bar debates, the old-fashioned got its official name. It was first published under the name in Theodore Proulx’s 1888 “The Bartenders Manual.”
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The 11 Best Bourbons For An Old Fashioned
When considering the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned it goes without saying, but a quality bourbon is essential here, even more so than many other cocktails. Yet, with so many bourbons to choose from, where to start? Thats a great question and why we put together this list of the 11 best bourbons for an Old Fashioned.
Each bourbon listed below is both readily available and of high quality. But most importantly, any bourbon listed below will take your Old Fashioned game to the next level! If youre looking for the best bourbon for an Old Fashionedyouve come to the right place.
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More About The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned gets its name because it started as literally the cocktail. The first cocktail in existence! It was first documented in the early 1800s by a New York paper. Once more cocktails started coming along in the 1806s, they needed a name for that original whiskey cocktail. The Old Fashioned was born.
The Old Fashioned is a classic alcoholic drink on the list of International Bartender Associations IBA official cocktails. This means that theres an official definition of the drink, which is:
- Bourbon or rye whiskey
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Getting To Know Eric Alperin
T: Well, thats actually a wonderful segue onto the final portion of this. This is going to be a recurring final portion of the podcast. Weve gotten to learn a lot about the Old Fashioned with you. Weve gotten to know a good amount about you, too. But, that might not always be the case when were interviewing folks for this. I think theres definitely some more drinks out there that require more nerding out, as you say, in terms of ingredients or specs or whatnot. The last segment of the show is really to learn a little bit more about Eric Alperin, assuming Unvarnished didnt exist. Ive got some quick-fire questions to finish the show. I will say this again, and I kind of want to say it every time. This is inspired by a wonderful British radio show called Desert Island Discs. Listen to it. Its incredible.
E: Oh, my God, I love this. Desert Island Discs is one of my favorites. I cant tell you how many times Ive laughed and cried listening to some of these. The one thing Im going to say is that the first Desert Island Discs I listened to was Stephen Hawking. It was soul crushing, beautiful, mind blowing. It was heartbreaking, but amazing. So, yes. Im so glad you were inspired by such a legacy of the show.
T: A couple of questions to get to know you. The first is, what would be the first bottle whether its a brand or general category that makes it onto one of your bar programs?
T: Hope that its good and fast.
E: Yeah. Or, good and cheap doesnt hurt.
Highland Park Smoked Old Fashioned
Orange twist, for garnish
Drop a sugar cube in a tumbler glass and add a few drops of smoked bitters. Muddle the two together, then add a large cube of ice. Add Highland Park 12 Year Old Whisky and stir to combine. Flame the orange peel as desired, running the smoked peel along the glass edge before adding to the drink.
Pair this cocktail with a dish like Devils on Horseback, perfectly sweet dates wrapped in hickory-smoked bacon. Its all about balance, and that smoky-sweet combination strikes a chord for this Smoked Old Fashioned.
Anyone who knows their Scotch knows the value of smoke, the often indescribable taste of a first sip of whisky. And every region of Scotland takes pride in their peat, the magical ingredient that gives Scotch its smoky flavor.
The Orkney Islands peat is like no other. A unique treeless region of Scotland, some of Orkneys peat is up to 9,000 years old. And its this rare peat which provides Highland Park 12 Year Old with its stand-out heathery aroma.
Our Old Fashioned recipe also stands out from the rest, highlighting the perfectly balanced smokiness of Highland Park 12 Year Old with smoked bitters instead of the traditional Angostura bitters used in an Old Fashioned. The result is a delightfully balanced cocktail thats just the right amount of aromatics and peat.
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Max Venning Three Sheets Bar & Restaurant
What does an Old Fashioned mean to you? Its probably one of the two true cocktail icons. Alongside the Martini it stands out above the rest in its reach over time. Arguably the first cocktail ever made, it drifts in and out of trend but remains constantly relevant. Its also generally a safe bet to order in any decent bar, so Ill often order one if Im in a new city or country.
Where did you discover it?Drinking in Socio Rehab in Manchester, at around 16 years old. It was probably the first experience that made me want to get into the cocktail world. I ended up working there a few years later when I was of age, so it definitely made an impression. What are its definitive ingredients?Good whiskey , sugar syrup, Angostura bitters and ice. Which whiskies work best?I like quite younger whiskies, as the sugar and bitters take the edge off and you get the true flavour of the distilled spirit. Saying that, if I was having bourbon Id go for Corner Creek it has some age but works so well. With scotch Id go for something light, a Glenfarclas 10 maybe, with a splash of Caol Ila 8 for a bit of smoke. How do you serve it?Over a big chunk of ice with a small zest of orange on the top. Any secret tips?At Three Sheets we infuse a small amount of the whiskey with a great rooibos tea it adds depth and some tannic structure so you can go lighter on the bitters, so it doesnt dominate too much.
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RECIPE: Apple Pie Ol Fashioned From Hard Rock Hotels Velvet Bar December 16, 2020 There isnt really a season of the year that Im not in the mood for apple pie and an old fashioned, but the craving for both is certainly heightened during the winter months.
Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter and egg. Whisk in the vanilla.
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Velvet Jack Recipe. The Velvet Jack drink is made from Chambord raspberry liqueur, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and sour mix, and served in an old-fashioned glass.
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