It has been nearly a decade since I have gone through bartending school. Back then, I can remember two things about Old Fashioned cocktails:
#1 – I was told by the instructor that these drinks are out of style, and that I would probably never have to make one. (I was living in Los Angeles at the time, where flavored vodkas and tequila were the preferred spirits).
#2 – The recipe for an Old Fashioned cocktail consists of Angostura bitters, water, sugar, maraschino cherry and an orange.
At Dish on Market, Forrest and I went through more than a dozen modifications to this formula – experimenting with different bourbon, bitters, and build methods until we had crafted what we believed to be the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail made with Fee Brothers bitters, Michters bourbon, powdered sugar, and soda water. We also discovered a few modified cocktails, like the Honey Fashioned.
We proudly mashed up fruit and served up soda watered drinks, thinking that we were masters of the craft.
And then we read this passage from Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar:
Just so we’re perfectly clear:
There is no slice of orange in an Old Fashioned.
There is no cherry in an Old Fashioned.
You do not mash up fruit of any kind in an Old Fashioned.
There is no seltzer, soda water, ginger ale, or lemon soda in an Old Fashioned.
There is no vermouth of any kind in an Old Fashioned.
There is no beer in an Old Fashioned.
There is no lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice or sour mix in an Old Fashioned.
There are no frothing agents in an Old Fashioned.
You do not shake an Old Fashioned*.
Wait…what? No fruit? No soda water? Well then what the hell have we been making?
Turns out, we had been making a muddled fruit cobbler.
A true Old Fashioned is built accordingly:
Step 1 – Take an Old-Fashioned glass.
Step 2 – Add sugar or simple syrup to taste. Sugar (and the scant water it is dissolved in) mellows the spirit of the drink.
Step 3 – Add one or more dashes of aromatic bitters, to taste.
Step 4 – Add 2 oz of bourbon or rye whiskey.
Step 5 (optional) – Add ice. Why wouldn’t you want to add ice? Dilution. If you put ice in your Old Fashioned, you have a finite amount of time to slurp it down before it becomes a watery mess. The time you have depends on the quality of your ice and the proof of your spirit. Omitting ice means you can nurse the drink all day, should you wish to.
Step 6 (optional) – Add a twist. A twist is a strip of peel from a lemon or orange.
So with that being said, there is nothing wrong with our original recipe, it was the perfect COBBLER concoction. But henceforth, if you visit us at Dish on Market you will receive a right and exact Old Fashioned Cocktail. When you frequent your favorite watering hole, have them construct your next Old Fashioned cocktail the right way, or point your barkeeper here and we will lay a proper academic smack down upon them.