The Old Fashioned is my favorite cocktail by far. I have an absolute love affair with this particular drink. Not any old fashioned, but an exceptionally well made one. What I love in this drink is the absolute balance between the brash spirit, the bitter, sweet and dilution. With so few ingredients this cocktail is all about technique.
Bourbon or Rye. Demerara. Bitters.
What is love in the Old Fashioned is the absolute balance between the brash spirit, the bitter, sweet and dilution this cocktail is all about technique.
- 2 ounces Bourbon or Rye, my absolute Favorite is Basil Hayden's Dark Rye
- 1 tsp Demerara Gum Syrup (Or Simple Syrup in a Pinch)
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 3 dashes Bitterman's Orange Bitters
- 2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
In a mixing glass add 1 teaspoon of Demerara Gum Syrup (or simple syrup), dash bitters, then 2 ounces bourbon or rye.2
Fill to double the volume with ice, and stir for 30 seconds.3
Strain into a old fashioned glass over the largest ice cube possible.4
Garnish with an orange peel (I don't twist, rub the rim, set it on fire, just lay it gently on the rim).
More times than I can remember I have gotten epic fails due to odd ingredient additions, on what is possibly the easiest cocktail to make. Personally, I don’t really understand why. I chalk it up to lack of training, many bartenders just don’t know, they were trained behind the bar by a bartender who does not know, its a self propagating problem. The customer can be to blame as well, at some point perhaps they either had one or made one wrong, and told a bartender that is what it is. No matter how we got here, here is where we are.
Some of the most epic fails I have had. One bartender made one with sours mix and tonic water. Another with cherry juice and sprite. Those are particularly bad examples. One very common ingredient is a brandied or maraschino cherry. Cherry’s have made their way here, i believe, from a Manhattan to this cocktail. While these two cocktails may seem similar they actually are not. A Manhattan is the Rye cousin to a martini, and old fashioned is in it’s own class of cocktail. Due to the use of a sweet bourbon and sugar, a candies cherry can quickly make it too sweet.
What I have learned, because I am so particular, I ask how it is made before I order, if it’s an odd, I simply say “That sounds great, do you mind if you make mine with 2 oz of (name a bourbon or rye they have) 1 teaspoon of syrup, 4 dashes of Angostura bitters, and 4 dashes of orange bitters?” Every bartender is happy to make it this way, because they want me happy. I did have a bartender once say “Well if that is how you like it, I guess, never heard of making them that way before.” I have to let that go.
All I am saying is if you mess with this recipe by adding sour mix or sprite or whatever, give it a new name, don’t besmirch an old fashioned please.
An Old Fashioned Technique
This cocktail is all about technique, it really has to be. Why else could a bar charge up to $25 for this cocktail? To make a $25 Old Fashioned, in a mixing glass add 1 teaspoon of Demerara Gum Syrup, add 4 dashes of angostura bitters, 3 dashes of Bitterman’s orange bitters, 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Orange bitters, then 2 ounces bourbon or rye. My choice is Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, or George Dickle Hand Selected Bourbon. Fill to double the volume with ice, and stir with a cocktail spoon for 30 seconds. Strain into a old fashioned glass over the largest ice cube possible. Garnish by laying an orange peel gently on the rim.
When approaching an old fashioned it will evolve over time, at first sip it will be a bit too boozy, mid way through it will be perfect, and by the last sip, just a tad watery. This last sip prompts one to order another. The cycle repeats. If the ice is too small, it will become over diluted quickly. Ideally the cube is large enough that it will not float. Remember, this is a $25 sipper not a shot.