The Old Fashioned cocktail is a classic (and classy) beverage consisting of bourbon over ice with a hint of both sweetness and bitterness. It’s a light and refreshing cocktail to sip on a warm summer night. You might be surprised that the still-popular cocktail dates back at least 150 years. Here are some interesting facts about the Old Fashioned, including how to make this elegant drink.
History of the Old Fashioned
The earliest recipe of the Old Fashioned dates back to 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository, in which the publication defines a cocktail as a beverage made with spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. So the original Old Fashioned recipe might date back over 200 years. The cocktail was included in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book, “How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion.” However, the recipe in Thomas’s book lists gin instead of bourbon as the main ingredient.
The drink became popular in the United States when James E. Pepper, a whiskey distiller in Lexington, Kentucky, changed the primary spirit in the cocktail to whiskey instead of gin. Pepper reportedly traveled to New York City and shared the recipe, which then spread throughout the United States.
The Old Fashioned Is Still Popular Today
In 2015, Louisville named the Old Fashioned its official cocktail in homage to Pepper’s contribution to the drink’s origination. Today, it’s one of the most popular cocktails in the U.S., and many bars report that it’s the most commonly ordered drink. The Old Fashioned consistently ranks at the top of Drinks International’s annual list of the world’s best-selling cocktails.
Size (of the Ice Cubes) Matters
The size of the ice cubes can make a big difference in the taste of an Old Fashioned. Large ice cubes melt slower than small cubes or crushed ice, which is essential to not diluting the bourbon and watering down this beverage. You can purchase large sphere or square ice molds online to get the ideal-sized cubes for your drink. One large ice sphere fits perfectly into a rocks glass and gives the cocktail a very classy appearance.
Many Recipe Variants Exist
Variations exist in the Old Fashioned recipe, including which spirits to use, what to use for garnish, and whether to add bitters or muddled fruit to the drink. Also, some individuals prefer sugar cubes while some think granulated sugar works better or simple syrup, which mixes quickly into the spirits. If you prefer simple syrup, you can easily make simple syrup at home to use in an Old Fashioned cocktail.
You’ll want to use a quality bourbon or whiskey to make the best Old Fashioned since little else is added to this drink. However, you can experiment with different versions to see which you prefer.
Garnish Makes a Big Difference in an Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned can be made without garnish, but you can use oranges and cherries to elevate this cocktail. Cut fresh orange slices and use one slice per cocktail. Muddle half the orange slice with a cherry, and the other half can float on top or sit on the rim of the rocks glass. To make a fancier version, use an orange twist for the garnish.
Maraschino cherries add a lovely flavor to the cocktail. To create a more mellow sweetness, many recommend using deep red Luxardo cocktail cherries to add the best cherry flavor to this drink. Use two cherries per cocktail — one to muddle with the orange, sugar, and bitters and drop the other cherry into the completed cocktail to add a fabulous finishing touch and a tasty treat for the drinker.
How To Make an Old Fashioned With Muddled Fruit
- 1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup or 1 sugar cube
- Dash of bitters
- 2 ounces bourbon (or rye whiskey, if preferred)
- 1 orange slice with the rind on it, cut into two half-circles
- 2 Luxardo cherries
1. Remove the rind from one orange segment and place the fruit in a rocks glass with one cherry. Use a muddler to muddle the fruit and sugar with a dash or two of bitters.
2. Add ice to the top of the rocks glass (or use one large ice cube from a mold).
3. Pour bourbon over the ice.
4. Garnish with remaining orange slice and cherry.
The classic Old Fashioned is an elegant drink. Follow this simple recipe to make the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail. You can also experiment with other spirits like rye whiskey, brandy, or rum to create your signature drink.