It’s Old Fashioned week around the world, which means it’s time to break out the brown spirits and whip up an old fashioned or two this weekend. It’s the perfect cocktail to warm you up on these chilly autumn nights — when it’s getting colder and colder and we’re all in need of a stiff and spicy drink to warm us up.
Uproxx Life has got your back on that front. We’re here for you.
The old fashioned is one of the more versatile cocktails out there due to its devilish simplicity. Back in the day, around 1800, bartenders were mixing spirits with bitters and sweeteners to make them more palatable. Over the course of the 19th century, more and more ingredients started getting added to the mix like absinth, juices, sweet tonics, etc. Think about the Sazerac. It’s basically an old fashioned with absinthe. Anyway, by around 1880, people started ordering their drinks the “old fashioned” way again because things were getting too complicated and muddled. The masses wanted an old fashioned cocktail again. That’s a base spirit, a bitter, a sweetener, and water chilled in a glass. The use of brandy, bourbon, rye, rum, or even gin was purely up to the drinker.
Between 1880 and now, the old fashioned has gone in and out of vogue multiple times. During the 1920s and the 1950s resurgences, whiskeys became one of the more common ingredients with brandy holding on in small pockets. The latest resurgence is due to a TV show set in the 1950s when the old fashioned was a standard afternoon head-clearer. So, yeah, the old fashioned is old, storied, and damn good. A drink doesn’t keep making comebacks over 220 years because it’s bad, that’s for sure.
Do you have a glass, a spoon, some ice, and some bitters, sugar, and dark booze? Good. That’s all you need to make a great old fashioned. Let’s dive into some easy to master old fashioned recipes you can imbibe this week to celebrate all things old fashioned.
JERRY THOMAS’ WHISKEY COCKTAIL
The Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide from 1862 is the seminal recipe book for all great bartenders. It’s not where it all started but it’s certainly where it all started to coalesce into a whole. The Whiskey Cocktail from his book is pretty much exactly what came to be known as an “Old Fashioned.” All the essential ingredients are there — base, sweetener, bitters. So, this is probably the best place to start our old fashioned journey.
The one ripple here is the use of gomme syrup instead of sugar cubes, bar syrup, or another sweetener. Gomme is the smoothest of the bar syrups due to the addition of gum arabic. It’ll make the smoothest cocktails you’ll ever taste and it’ll be hard to go back to the rough cane sugar-based sweeteners after dipping your cocktail palate into the world of gomme. Plus, you should be able to find it at any liquor store for less than ten bucks.
- 3 or 4 dashes of gomme syrup
- 2 dashes of Boker’s Bitters
- 1 wine-glass of whiskey
- 1 lemon rind
- “Fill a Shaker one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy wine glass.”
- Build your drink into a shaker — gomme, bitters, whiskey.
- Fill shaker one-third with good ice and shake well.
- Strain into a “fancy wine glass.”
- Spritz the lemon oils over the drink and garnish with the rind.