This past week I was in the Chicago area hanging out with Josh, an old friend from my grad school days. I was away from the friendly confines of The Ace, but I wanted to be able to mix up a few drinks while away on vacation.
The local liquor store was a little low on quality spirits available, but I was able to find a nice rye on offer (Michter's Single Barrel Rye) and they had Angostura's orange bitters. So the answer was obvious - I would make my friend Josh and me some Old Fashioned cocktails.
The Old Fashioned is perfect for these occasions. It's a simple recipe with only a few easy-to-find ingredients, and it is relatively easy to make without a lot of bar tools. Oh yeah - and it's an outstanding cocktail.
The Old Fashioned also has the distinction of being another one of those classic cocktails that has been bastardized and nearly destroyed in the modern era. Many overzealous bartenders have tried to soften the lovely hard edges of this fine drink with too much sugar, orange slices and/or maraschino cherries. When all is said and done, the Old Fashioned is a mixture of whiskey, bitters, sugar and a little water with a tad of citrus oil for aroma.
Being one of the true classic cocktails - and one with an outstanding name - the Old Fashioned has a significant place in American cocktail culture. Many words have been written about the Old Fashioned. A few of the more recent ones can be found on the American Drink blog here and here. The drink even got a nice boost to its rugged manliness recently thanks to our friend Don Draper.
Because of its general simplicity, the art of the Old Fashioned is in its proportions and in its preparation. You as the bartender are certainly welcome to play with the proportions to your taste - but I strongly recommend not playing with the preparation method. 100 years of this cocktail can't be all that wrong...
Here is the version that my friend Josh and I used to polish off that bottle of Michter's rye last week.
Old Fashioned Cocktail
2 oz. rye whiskey (bourbon works too, but rye is more historically accurate)
Angostura bitters (orange-flavored if available - but its fine to use their plan bitters if not)
1 sugar cube (or 1 tsp. of sugar if no cubes available)
Place the sugar in a double old-fashioned glass. Shake 2-4 dashes of bitters onto the sugar and muddle the bitters into the sugar to make a nice slurry of sugar-bitters in the bottom of the glass.
Pour the whiskey into a separate mixing glass 1/2 full of ice and stir for at least 30 seconds - to get the whiskey nice and cold. Pour the chilled whiskey and ice into the old-fashioned glass on top of the sugar-bitters slurry. Pour a little club soda on top of the drink, and use a vegetable peeler to take a wide slab of peel from the orange. Place the orange peel slab into the drink.
- It's fine to use bourbon - but rye whiskey is more indicative of the time from which The Old Fashioned originated
- Orange-flavored Angostura bitters are clearly preferred here - but you may also use another orange bitters if you choose (Regan's No. 6 is great) or you can also just use Angostura's original bitters here to great effect
- Be sure to peel the orange over top of your drink glass to let the orange oils expunged in the peeling process fall into your drink
- Peel off only the oily rind of your orange - try to avoid the pith (the white part) of the orange peel