Mixing up the Perfect Old Fashioned

This old-fashioned method of crafting a cocktail has been around for almost 130 years, spending time in and out of the limelight. Lately, it’s become more popular again, possibly thanks to the success of Mad Men and its title character’s favorite beverage. We’ll explore the ingredients and the perfect way to make your own old fashioned at home.

For a little background, you should know a little bit about its history. In 1862, the book Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks was published, and in it were instructions from earlier days of bartending. A recipe for the “Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail” called for crushing a small lump of sugar in a whiskey glass, with a touch of water, ice, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small lemon peel, and one jigger Holland gin, then mix with a small bar spoon and serve. While this isn’t the exact recipe we use today, it’s one of the earliest accounts of a similar cocktail. Sometimes brandy or rum is used, as well.

Now, on to the fun stuff! Typically, whiskey is used to make old fashioneds nowadays. Bourbon and rye are the two most orthodox liquors of choice, but you can also use Japanese or Indian whisky, or scotch. For a sharper, spicier flavor, go with a rye, and for a richer flavor, choose bourbon.

The sugar used for an old fashioned may vary. Many people use a brown sugar cube, some regular white sugar, and others simple syrup. We believe using a brown sugar simple syrup tastes best, and it’s fairly easy and inexpensive to make on your own.

For bitters in the old fashioned, the typical is Angostura aromatic bitters. This standard bitters will always work, but feel free to experiment and use another kind or flavor if you’re in the mood. One popular bitters flavor people use is orange.

The favorite fruits to muddle in an old fashioned are orange and maraschino cherry. Some people argue a strip of lemon rind when using rye will create a better flavor.

Be careful with ice and water as to not dilute the drink too much. Of course, add to preference, but too much ice or water can kill the delicious flavors brought out by all the other ingredients.

The following ingredients are needed to make an old fashioned:

brown sugar
bitters – Angostura or other
2 orange slices
2 maraschino cherries
60ml bourbon (or rye, or gin)

Start by making the simple—put brown sugar and water into a small pan and bring to a boil, stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool after placing in a container. Once cool, place a splash of the syrup into a small rocks glass, add a few dashes of bitters, add a slice of orange and a cherry, then muddle all together. Pour in bourbon or choice of liquor, then stir well. Add ice and garnish with more fruit.

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