We live in a great time for cocktails, don’t we? Its the 21st century with bartenders who actually know how to make a drink. We have countless options when it comes to choosing what kind of spirit we want in our cocktail, and there decades-worth of the best recipes to choose from. It’s a great time to be over 21, my friends.
I love going to my favorite mixology bar and ordering whatever smoked, herb-infused, ingredient-I’ve-never-heard-of cocktail my bartender has concocted that evening. Lately, however, I’ve been going back to the classics. Some cocktails have stood the test of time for a reason--they are straightforward, uncomplicated, and showcase a spirit the way it is intended to be showcased.
Enter the Old Fashioned, one of the most classic of the classics. The Old Fashioned has always been my go-to cocktail and always will be (at least I hope). Everyone needs a go-to cocktail. It's the drink you can order at a bar when you have no idea what else to order. It's got to be your comfort zone.
It Runs in the Family
My mom was so happy to hear that the Old Fashioned is my favorite cocktail. I vividly remember her shrieking with excitement saying “that was your Grandfather’s drink!”. Apparently, as a kid my mom would make her dad an old fashioned every day after work. She says “he’d walk through the door and I’d have an old fashioned waiting for him”. First of all, way to be awesome, Grandpa. Second, kudos to my mom for knowing how to make a cocktail as a kid. Those were the days…
Ordering an Old Fashioned is perfect if you want to get into bourbon…but don’t particularly enjoy it. The orange and simple syrup (yes, I use simple syrup instead of sugar and water) sweeten up the flavor and hide the heat a bit. Plus, if you’re at a bar with no menu and you don’t want to be boring and order that vodka-soda or whatever, most bartenders know how to make an old fashioned, even at the holiest of hole-in-the-wall bars. Better yet, this is a great cocktail for your home bar, as it requires hardly any ingredients. Just make sure you keep a steady inventory of oranges and maraschino cherries on your grocery list so you too can enjoy an old fashioned while waiting for dinner to cook.
The Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are the two most famous cocktails associated with bourbon (I also enjoy a fresh mint julep in the summer). The Old Fashioned was first concocted in the Louisville Pendennis Club in the 1880s where a member didn’t like bourbon, but didn’t want to offend his friends who were distillers. The bartender came up with the Old Fashioned to fix the situation, and the patrons loved it. The Old Fashioned became such a success throughout the years that it eventually even got its own specific glass—the double low-ball glass we make so many drinks from is also referred to as an “old fashioned glass”.
Note: Definitely use your favorite bourbon in this cocktail, but if you're just starting out, Evan Williams makes a pretty sweet old fashioned (literally). And its my favorite value-bourbon when I'm not feeling fancy.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 oz water
- 1 Tbsp simple syrup
- 6 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 orange wedge
- 1 red Maraschino cherry
- Measure out the simple syrup and bitters into an old-fashioned glass (or whatever glass you have, of course). Add the orange wedge and cherry and muddle, releasing the aromas and juices but not pulverizing the fruit.
- Add a few ice cubes, 2 oz bourbon and 2 oz water. Stir to combine. Garnish with an orange wedge or additional cherry.