Cocktail Basics: Old Fashioned
As the worlds most popular whisky cocktail, the Old Fashioned has been on the receiving end of countless reinventions both good and bad, as Jake Emen finds.
Time and again, thirsty bar-goers the world over have ordered an Old Fashioned only to end up with an alcohol-soaked fruit salad in their glass. Not only is it a disappointing experience, its also a far cry from what the drink actually is a timeless cocktail that shines due to its simplicity.
The drink is best served with a characterful spirit that is enjoyable on its own, but which may also be improved upon with a few bright spots of flavour, applied in the form of a touch of sweetness accompanied by a punch of bitters and a kiss of citrus. Easy-sipping yet strong, the drink holds its own at happy hour or later in the evening, alongside food or without. Here, explore the cocktail, its history, and how to make it.
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Best Whiskey For A Whiskey Sour
Using a good quality whiskey is key to creating the perfect whiskey sour. Here are a few great whiskey brands that you can use. You can find all of these at your local liquor store.
Bulleit This whiskey has a sweet oak flavor and light spiciness. It has hints of maple, oak, and nutmeg. It goes really well paired with ginger flavors.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky Made with red winter wheat, instead of rye for full-flavored bourbon.
Templeton Rye Whiskey Sweet and spicy flavor with aromas of caramelized banana, vanilla, and cinnamon. Its not super oaky and has a honey flavor
Four Roses Kentucky made, you can enjoy this smooth and mellow Bourbon in your favorite cocktail or on the rocks.
Wild Turkey Aged in American White Oak barrels, Wild Turkey 101 has the most beautiful vanilla and cinnamon aroma with spice and orange peel finish. This is a great bourbon for making a sour.
Woodford Reserve A perfectly balanced Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made of more than 200 detectable flavor notes, from bold grain and wood to spice, and fruit & floral notes. It has a super creamy finish and works perfectly when making a whiskey sour.
Irish Whiskey You can use an Irish whiskey to make a sour. Try Jameson Black Barrel with a dash of bitters. When you use Irish whiskey the drink becomes an Irish sour!
Need more ideas? Check out these options for whiskeys to use in cocktails.
Elements Of An Old Fashioned
Whiskey: Both rye and bourbon offer different flavor profiles. Bourbon is slightly sweeter and rounder, whereas rye introduces a peppery bite. Either way, youll want something high in proof as this extra alcohol will stand up to the dilution from melting ice.
Try: Knob Creek, W.L. Weller Antique, Bookers, Old Grand-Dad, Bakers, Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, or Rittenhouse.
Glass: The Old Fashioned is one of the few drinks in existence that has a glass named in its honor. The ideal glass should be between eight to 10 ounces, with a thick heavy bottom.
Ice: This is a sipping cocktail, but you dont want that expensive booze turning into a watery mess. Avoid small cubes and pick up rubber molds or invest in an ice sphere.
Sweetener: While simple syrup works well, other options are to sub in honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar. But, make sure to dilute these with equal parts water.
Bitters: There are dozens of new bitters on the market. The best, however, is still the most common: Angostura. Two healthy dashes will do the trick. Chocolate or walnut bitters work well in this drink if you can find them. I also like Dale DeGroffs pimento bitters.
Technique: The most balanced Old Fashioned is made by stirring the drink with ice for about 20 to 30 seconds and then straining that mix over fresh ice.
Garnish: Orange twist, lemon twist, or both.
Pegu Clubs Old Fashioned
2 dashes Angostura bittersOrange twist
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Pro Tips For Making This Recipe
- While some recipes may call for soda water or water added to the sugar cubes, I skip it so as not to dilute the cocktail.
- Avoid adding too many dashes of bitters to the glass as itll overpower the bourbon flavors.
- Dont skip the sugar as the sweetness opens the bourbons aroma.
- When cutting the orange peel, make sure there is as little pith as possible as itll taste bitter.
- To help your drink stay cold longer, you can place your glasses in the freezer beforehand. If you didnt put the glasses in the freezer early enough, you can also fill the glasses with some water and place them in the freezer while preparing to make the drink for a quick chill.
- Feel free to double or triple the recipe, just be sure to use a larger glass to mix your ingredients together.
- Using a large ice cube is ideal as it melts slower and slows the dilution of the drink.
- A Luxardo cherry makes a great garnish for an Old Fashioned. Place it on a toothpick on the glass, or add it to the drink and stir.
Why We Love A Brandy Old Fashioned In Wisconsin
From these unconventional brandy old fashioned cocktails to chicken booyah and deep fried cheese curds, there are so many awesome traditions that make our state unique.
A traditional old fashioned cocktail uses whiskey, but in Wisconsin, theyre commonly made with brandy. The reasons arent really clear, since most of this sort of stuff gets lost to history.
Popular theories are that brandy was more familiar to German immigrants and that brandy was more readily available during prohibition times, but Ill leave the historical internet research to you. Just know that you can order your old fashioned with either brandy or whiskey and no one will think twice about it.
Another thing that makes a Wisconsin old fashioned different than its more widespread counterpart is the wash. A wash is basically when you add soda or seltzer to a cocktail after mixing it. Ive described the different ways we use this wash below, and you can choose whichever option you like best.
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Where Did This Drink Even Come From
According to John Dye, owner of Bryants Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee and resident booze historian, Korbel owes the Badger State big time.
Milwaukee had a big role in the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 and many of the brandy-thirsty Germans attended, Dye explains. One of the exhibitors was a domestic brandy from California named Korbel. Story has it that the Germans in Milwaukee took to Korbel in a big way. As the rest of the country was starting to turn to whiskey, Wisconsin turned to brandy. It makes sense that the Old Fashioned, which was a popular whiskey cocktail at the time, would be made with brandy in Wisconsin. Things here dont change too quickly, so we just kept making them with brandy.
Korbel becomes a huge player in the brandy industry and Wisconsinites create a signature cocktail. Everybody wins.
The Classic Whiskey Sour Recipe
Few drinks are as iconic as the whiskey sour. Perhaps owing to its three-ingredient simplicitywhiskey, lemon and sugarthe cocktail has remained a mainstay in American drinking culture for over 150 years. While variations exist, the sour as we know it today is thought to have been codified around the same period as the Old Fashioned, during the mid-1800s.
At its most basic, a sour is an umbrella term for a number of cocktails that include a spirit, lemon juice, sugar and water for dilution, usually in the form of ice. The combination is said to have been popularized by British sailors as far back as the 1600s, who sought to fend off scurvy on long journeys by creating punches using spirits and citrus.
While gin, rum and brandy were popular in early sours, whiskey became the spirit of choice after the drink took hold in America. Its first known recorded mention dates to a January 4, 1870 edition of a Wisconsin newspaper, the Waukesha Plaindealer, in a satirical article written by Terence McGrant, a fictional character created by politician and writer George W. Peck who purported to be an Irish cousin to U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.
Then may God have mercy on your sowl, says I, taking a drink out of me cousins glass.
Amen, says the Methodist, as he ordered another whisky sour.
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Lemon twist, thick cut, for garnish
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Old Fashioned Recipe With Mixer
2oz Bourbon or Rye1/2oz Classic Old Fashioned mixer
Combine whiskey and mixer in a tall glass filled with ice. Stir 20-30 seconds, strain into a whiskey glass. No garnish needed, but if you have an orange peel handy it wont hurt! Curious if a store near you carries Spiced Old Fashioned check our store locator.
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Why Is It Called An Old
Modern drinkers can relate to the story of the old-fashioned. This cocktail sparked the same type of “old versus new” debates in the late 19th-century bar that modern “martini” menus produce today. In truth, the old-fashioned was considered “old-fashioned” over a hundred years ago.
Around the 1880s, the American cocktail scene really started to boom. Bartenders were creating new drinks with curaçao, absinthe, syrups, and fruit juices, and they were a hit. There were, of course, the holdouts, those nostalgic drinkers who wanted a simple drink with a kick like they got in the “old days.” To them, all of the fancy stuff was a waste of time. After countless newspaper editorials and bar debates, the old-fashioned got its official name. It was first published under the name in Theodore Proulx’s 1888 “The Bartenders Manual.”
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How To Make The Old Fashioned
This old classic is really easy to mix. All you need are the ingredients and a cold Tumbler Glass.
On a Side Note: Is the flavour too intense for you? You can always add water to the Old Fashioned, to take off the edge of the alcohol. You can also cool the ingredients beforehand. The cold is decreasing the vapour pressure of the flavouring substances and therefore decreasing the flavour, making the drink appear to be milder.
October 3, 2019 | Jake Emen
Whisky and sweet vermouth arent just pals, theyre best buds. They do everything together. Sweet vermouth, with its velvety mouthfeel, is a captivating cocktail partner for almost any whisky. A two-to-one ratio of rye and vermouth is a Manhattan replace the rye with scotch, and you have a Rob Roy. Its that simple.
Whisky and sweet vermouth have some similar flavors and aromas, including the sweetness of both products, explains Trevor Frye, proprietor of Wash Line LLC, and the one-time beverage director at Washington, D.C.s Jack Rose Dining Saloon. As you dip your toes into the waters of home cocktailing, its a foolproof combination that should inspire you to continue wading deeper.
The trick is finding the sweet vermouth that best suits your whisky. Certain varieties may work better with certain cocktails or particular types of whiskywhereas some are intensely sweet, almost thick, others are lighter. Some are vanilla-forward and others highlight citrus.
Whiskey Sour Recipe With Egg White
Adding an egg white into a whiskey sour creates a smoother finish, helps balance the tartness of the cocktail, and also creates a beautiful frothy layer on the top.
The risk of salmonella is low but its better to be cautious. So here are some tips for adding egg whites into cocktails.
You can also make a whiskey sour without egg white too. We prefer it with, however it will still taste very good without!
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When Did Muddling Old Fashioneds Start
The basic old fashioned came from that original whiskey cocktail in the 1800s, but when did the addition of fruit and muddling start?
Muddling was first recorded in the 1880s bartenders were using lumps of sugar with a bit of water instead of prepared gum syrup. They would muddle the sugar and bitters, add whiskey and ice, occasionally a lemon peel. Bartenders served it with a spoon to scoop out that tasty, whiskey-infused sugar left in the bottom of the glass.
The addition of fruit and the muddling of the fruit in with the whiskey probably occurred at during Prohibition, when drinks were sweetened and lightened so the ladies might enjoy them more.
But enough people liked the taste of it that those fruity, lighter versions persist today.
Having Fun With The Ice
Since weve gotten into making Old Fashioned cocktails at home, Adam dorked out a little and looked into the how and why of clear, large ice cubes. None of this is required for your cocktail, but since we used two of his ice balls in our photo and considering weve already bonded over our love of the Old Fashioned, I thought Id take a shot at explaining what weve learned.
Im sure youve seen various large ice cube molds like this sphere mold . The problem is that if you just add water and freeze, you will be left with cloudy ice. Worse still, if you use the sphere mold, the water freezes in such a way that when you add the sphere to your drink, it has a very high chance of breaking into pieces.
This all matters because cloudier ice cubes are less dense so they melt much quicker and break apart easier than clearer ice cubes. In other words, the clearer ice cubes are, the less dilution your cocktail will need to endure. And bonus, clear ice looks cooler.
So how do you make clear ice cubes? There are quite a few gadgets you can buy online. We went the more DIY, budget-friendly route. After some research, we found this tutorial for making clear ice balls using an insulated mug.
We use our tap water since we have found it freeze quite clear using this method. The tap water in the last home we had did not produce clear cubes so we found that it was best to use filtered or boiled water.
Here are the steps for doing it :
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Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet Or Sour
In Wisconsin, the default way to make a Brandy Old Fashioned is with a splash of Sprite or 7-up, making it sweet.
But, dont think you have to stop there.
You can also make it with sour mix or a sour soda , making it sour. You can get fancy, and make it press, with a combination of 7-up and seltzer. Or, you can skip all the fanciness and simply add seltzer.
Bourbon Old Fashioned Recipe
The classic recipe can easily be made using bourbon however the below recipe is a slight mix on it and makes for an equally lovely cocktail to drink. This recipe was made popular by Don Draper on the TV show Mad Men, so we sometimes refer to it as the Don Draper Old Fashioned or the American-style Old Fashioned instead.
Awesome photo from Gimmesomeoven
- 1 cube or teaspoon of sugar
- 3-4 dashes of angostura bitters
- 1 wheel of Orange & 1 Maraschino cherry
- 1 dash of club soda
1. In a chilled glass, muddle together the sugar, bitters, wheel of orange, cherry and a dash of soda for 20-30 seconds
2. Take out the orange wheel and fill the glass with large ice cubes and your favourite bourbon
3. Garnish with a new orange wheel or peel and a Maraschino cherry. Optionally add a spritz of soda water if you want more dilution.
4. Enjoy your old fashioned cocktail!
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Whiskey Old Fashioned Sour
When I lived in Wisconsin, supper clubs were a thing! Going to Friday night fish fry’s was a blast! If you’ve never been to a supper club in the midwest, Wisconsin does it right.
You order your dinner and drinks in the bar and when your meal is ready, you’re called to your table. Which seems kinda opposite, right? But it was a great opportunity to relax and visit with friends before the meal.
A Whiskey Old Fashioned Sour quickly became my cocktail of choice! Classically this drink would be served with pickled brussels sprouts, mushrooms or asparagus or green olives.
This cocktail can be served sweet – using brandy, a sugar cube and a maraschino cherry – or sour with whiskey and there’s something about that sour that made it my favorite!
Whiskey Old Fashioned Sour starts with a great whiskey!
How To Make An Old Fashioned
Beyond the sugar, soda, bitters, and booze, there are a couple pieces of equipment required to make a great old fashioned. Anyone making cocktails should have a cocktail jigger on hand to easily measure liquid. A muddler is also needed to craft an old fashioned as you will muddle the bitters with the sugar.
Tip: Some people enjoy muddling garnishes such as cherry and orange with the sugar for added flavor.
Once the bitters and sugar have been muddled together in an old fashioned glass, ice can be added, along with your jigger of brandy and soda. Garnish with cherries and an orange peel and serve.
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