You may think, “Why order an Old Fashioned when I could have the latest mixological creation with cucumber slivers, grapefruit rind, and charred ice?”

Truth is, if I see a bar menu regaling their offering of a vintage Old Fashioned, it will be the first cocktail I order. If it’s good, I’ll try their specialty cocktails and riffs on the classics. If it’s bad, I’ll switch to beer and wine for the night. It’s kind of like a bartender’s handshake.

In Classy as F*ck Cocktails, Calligraphuck, Ltd qualifies the Old Fashioned’s purpose like this….

When the day hands you your ass, you don’t have energy to deal with bullshit. Things don’t get more no-nonsense than the old fashioned. Whiskey with bittersweet edge, it’s 100 percent bullshit-free. (Calligraphuck, pg.69)

In short, the Old Fashioned rocks a sucky day. Then again it brightens an already great day. There’s no bad time for an Old Fashioned.

Cocktails are balancing acts of the esteemed high-wire variety. One miscalculation and your triad of taste: sweet, sour, and booze, throws off your balance of flavors and any hope for complexity in a drink. The Old Fashioned is a potential stumbling act with the weight heavily sided on BOOZE, lightly balanced by very little SWEET and then gingerly accented with BITTERS, preferably Angostura. It’s the simplest of drinks, four ingredients, whiskey, sugar, bitters and water; and yet everyone screws it up. And don’t forget the garnish. It should be a citrus twist, preferably an orange. No cherry need touch this drink and no fucking muddling

How the Old Fashioned gets its name indicates something about its origins. The Pendennis Club, founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky, is credited with mixing the first Old Fashioned for a club member, Colonel James E. Pepper, the notable bourbon industrialist. His family brand of whiskey, Old Pepper was once considered “the Oldest and Best Brand of Whiskey made in Kentucky.” He, supposedly, takes the recipe to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. The gold standard for cocktails at the time, it is referred to as old fashioned because it is the original, authentic and uncomplicated. Much like the Marvel Universe, there are multiple origin stories to cocktails this old. Mine is the correct one. Probably.

While the drink falls out of popularity in the 1980s and 90s, genuine bartenders like Dale DeGroff at the Rainbow Room keep its lineage alive. In the early 2000s, bars like Milk and Honey reignite people’s interest in the classic recipe. Although many of you may have seen Don Draper sip on countless Old Fashioneds on MadMen in the episode where he crafts one and dictates the recipe; his specs, technique and ingredients are all wrong. (No Don, you don’t muddle a fruit salad in your cocktail!)

This recipe is my recommendation for how to keep the Old Fashioned… old fashioned. Angostura bitters should be used unless you are working on a riff. A Rye Old Fashioned is perfectly acceptable, especially in the winter. Honestly, any whiskey can be used. I believe bourbon is the perfect ingredient. Note: we don’t count Canadian whiskey as whiskey. Simple syrup allows for more control over the measurement, plus a sugar cube never fully dissolves and you end up with sugar granules in your mouth. It’s like chewing on sand. Nobody wants that. Here’s the way I make mine. Don’t screw it up.

Old Fashioned at home

  1. 2 oz whiskey (bourbon or rye)
  2. 1/8-1/4 oz simple syrup (1:1)
  3. 2-4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
  • Add ice
  • Stir until properly diluted, 12-15 seconds if using ice from home freezer
  • Strain into your favorite glass over fresh ice
  • Garnish citrus twist, my preference is orange

Once you move away from whiskey, use a different bitter, or change up the sweetener, you are doing a riff on the Old Fashioned which is fine, but don’t call it an Old Fashioned. And for God’s sake, don’t call it New Fashioned. #NoFuckingMuddling.