The Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail

Get me a classic drink, and please, do it the old-fashioned way. And so, the name "Old Fashioned" came to stay. The cocktail is a simple mix of whiskey, Bitters, Sodas, and sugar with a history dating back to the early 1800s, long before the word "cocktail" was ever a thing. The first time the word "cocktail" was printed, the "good Old Fashioned" was right beside it.

This classic cocktail has surfaced over and over again in the course of our history as every new generation of boozers continues to fall for its charm and amazing taste.

HOW IT BEGAN

Before the advent of advanced bartending techniques in the late 1800s, there was a drink known as Whiskey Cocktail, also referred to as a bittered sling. It was a simple yet sophisticated mix of whiskey, bitters, sugar, and ice, garnished with lemon. This drink was used for treating hangovers and was thus a regular feature of cocktail bars at the time.

Over time, the Whiskey Cocktail experienced several transformations as bartenders experimented with different blends, taking away or adding ingredients until the Whiskey Cocktail became a completely different drink. Craving the original recipe, boozers at the time could no longer stomach the variations and resorted to requesting their cocktail made the "old fashioned" way, from whence the current name was coined.

So early a version of cocktail the Old Fashioned was that when the term "cocktail" was mentioned, the Old Fashioned came to mind. For example, the first documentation of the term "cocktail" was in the May 6, 1806 issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York. It was made in response to a letter written by a reader for the paper to define the term. The paper's editor went on to define it as "a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar," which was essentially the recipe for the Old Fashioned. James Edward Alexander also made a similar description of the cocktail in 1833; a mixture of rum, gin or brandy, water, sugar, and a nutmeg garnish (the latter was an addendum) was his idea of a cocktail.

Although it is clear that the Old Fashioned has been around a long time, its recipe is credited to a bartender at the Pendennis, a gentlemen's club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky. The name of the bartender was James E. Pepper. He was a well-known bourbon distiller and was the first to bring the Old Fashioned to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York. Perhaps, he is considered the inventor because the cocktail gained popularity after he introduced it.

A WELL-KNOWN COCKTAIL

The Old-Fashioned gained traction in 1880 when the newspapers announced that Samuel Tilden had withdrawn from an election race. The public celebrated this with the Old Fashioned along with a host of other drinks.

Fifteen years later, the cocktail appeared in the book Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler. In 2015, it was named Louisville's official cocktail, sealing its popularity in the United States. To this day, the Old-Fashioned remains at the top of the classic most popular cocktails in the world.

THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY

Perhaps one of the selling points of the old-Fashioned cocktail is the simplicity of its preparation. All that's needed are glass, water, sugar, whiskey, ice, and bitters. Here are a few simple steps;

  • Put some sugar in a glass
  • Cover it with about two dashes of bitters
  • Add some splashes of whiskey and a small amount of water, stir until the mixture dissolves
  • Add a chunk of ice and stir once more

Now you know how it's made; you can tell when the bartender isn't doing it right. And what's more, you can do it yourself, the Old-Fashioned way!