4,5 cl of Bourbon whiskey
a lump of brown sugar
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
The Old Fashioned is a cocktail for serious drinkers accustomed to the flavor of the whisky, like Don Draper of Mad Men. His full name is Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail, and it comes from the fact that those who ordered it asked for a whiskey in the old way.
And the old way is and should always be like that: a lump in the glass, two drops of Angostura, a bit of soda to dissolve, some muddler pounding, and then add the ice, you let the whiskey come in, mix well but gently and squeeze a lemon peel over the cocktail and then you can decorate with a maraschino cherry, a slice of orange and lemon peel.
There aren’t any fruit juices, syrups, or liqueur like triple sec or maraschino to sweeten the pill, just a man and his whiskey to the old way. It’s no coincidence that during Prohibition, the bartenders used to pound a lemon peel with sugar to disguise the flaws of the moonshine.
We are talking about a pillar of the history of mixed drinks, one of the oldest cocktails, born towards 1800, along with the Sazerac, different in the ingredients but with which it shares the same preparation, or should I say the same ritual.
Powdered sugar or sugar syrup?
You should never use syrup sugar: only simple sugar. Sure, to make an optimal cocktail, it is clear that sugar syrup is the best ingredient: it is more easily soluble and speeds up the work. But this is a ritual and a legend, not only liquid satisfaction. When I order an Old Fashioned, I want to watch the bartender working: it’s a part of the pleasure. Unless you want to customize your syrup with some particular ingredients to infuse infinite shades into your cocktails, but that’s another story.
The appearance is minimal, of a unique, silent elegance: it has an amber, intriguing color that hypnotizes your eyes, filled with an ice crystal, from which peep a cheeky slice of orange and Solomonic lemon zest.
Try it, and you will never come back: this is a masterpiece of intense flavor, enhanced by the balsamic flavor of Angostura, which supports the spiciness of the whiskey and the sweetness of the sugar, dozing in the background. This cocktail is so famous and memorable that the glass used has also taken its name.
Ingredients of the Old Fashioned
- 4.5 cl of Bourbon whisky
- 1 lump of sugar
- 2 dashes of Angostura
- a dash of soda to dissolve the cube
How to prepare the perfect Old Fashioned
Put the sugar cube in a glass and drop two tears of Angostura and a dash of soda. Pound with the muddler to dissolve sugar, capturing the essence of Angostura.
Fill with ice and pour your favorite whiskey: Bourbon or Rye. Stir gently and garnish with a slice of orange or lemon peel or a maraschino cherry.
History: when was it born, and who invented it?
We are talking about a pillar of the history of the mixology, one of the oldest cocktails, born at the end of the 1800s, together with Sazerac, different in ingredients but with which it shares the same preparation, or it would be better to say the same ritual.
The cocktail is born with whiskey and is closely linked to the life and eating habits of the United States: the step from whiskey on the rocks to a whiskey cocktail flavored with two drops of aromatic bitters and sugar is short. As evidence of this, the first written definition of cocktail found in the United States is reported by the newspaper Balance and Columbian Repository of 1806: “A stimulating drink, made from any distillate, sugar, water and bitter.” And coincidentally, the identikit corresponds to Old Fashioned and Sazerac.
If we want to talk about the first real Old Fashioned, we have to wait for the publication of the bible by Jerry Thomas, the legendary How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion manual.
Even though its first incarnation was known as the Whiskey Cocktail and made with two drops of Boker’s bitters, a bit of gum arabic syrup, and a glass of whiskey.
From that moment, it was a flourishing of variations: gin, cognac, sherry, garnish, and fruit began to invade the glass. The whiskey cocktail was (and still is!) a lubricant of social relationships, an excuse to relax and enjoy time with your friends after work. At one point, it was so “famous” that it was recommended as a morning drink, a medicinal tonic to fix the stomach, the same function also recognized to Mint Julep, a very close relative.
The Old Fashioned becomes the official cocktail of the United States
In an article in the Memphis Daily Appeal of 1859, the Whiskey Cocktail was defined as a “fashionable cocktail,” a companion to gentleman’s evenings, the cocktail for important occasions.
However, the drift of the variants led to a degeneration of the cocktail, and some purists rebelled. They almost made it a question of national health. The Whiskey Cocktail had to be drunk the old way, not because of virility or patriotic love, but for the simple fact that the Whiskey Cocktail had become so sweet that people didn’t drink it anymore. It had become a pantomime of itself.
It was Leander Richardson, in a piece called “The Cocktail of To-Day” in 1886, that created the legend, contrasting the new cocktails with the old-fashioned ones. The article caused a sensation, so much so that the Whiskey Cocktail became the Old Fashioned Cocktail.
The whiskey gives character and strength to the cocktail, so dare with red meats, grilled fish, smoked salmon, brisket, Risotto alla Milanese, Roast Beef, Hamburger, Broccoli and ginger beef stir fry.