Imagine a world in which the Old Fashioned was never created. Cutting the recipe from existence would Thanos-snap a sizable chunk from the art of mixology, knocking out a fundamental pillar of cocktail culture, all but erasing the Don Draper-like flair that has buzzed around bars since the original whiskey cocktail was created in the early 1800s. It’d be an existential threat to the bartending industry.
The way we think about mixology would be profoundly different for the very simple fact that the Old Fashioned is the primordial cocktail. It is, after all, the very definition of one – dating all the way back to 1806, when legendary journalist Harry Croswell published in the May 13 issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository a simple definition of the word “cocktail”. In response to a reader’s query, Croswell stated that a cocktail is a “stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters”. It was the very first time “cocktail” had been defined and echoes the basic Old Fashioned recipe enthusiasts are all too familiar with.
Of course, that basic concoction of spirit, sugar, water and bitters has been built upon, stretched, deconstructed, and given more than a few ostentatious flourishes since then, but the Old Fashioned recipe retains such command over the bartending industry mostly because of the beautiful simplicity it represents so well.
It’s the kind of recipe you could teach to a newcomer in just a few minutes, yet it’s one many bartenders – experienced ones – frequently fumble. A cocktail that relies on an immaculate sense of balance is hard to master, but rewarding when done right, even more so because, despite the minimalism, there’s plenty of room to experiment. From switching the kind of bitters used, to tweaking the surface area of the ice cube (hint: the bigger, the better), to what kind of garnish is used, there’s plenty of room to arrive at the perfect Old Fashioned for your individual taste.
Although you can never beat the tried-and-tested, classic recipe. Just make sure you’ve got your tools right, and pick your base carefully. We suggest using Maker’s Mark Bourbon as the lifted notes of caramel and vanilla typically balance well with the Angostura Bitters for an Old Fashioned that’s equal parts sweet and strong.
To help you get started, here’s the classic Old Fashioned recipe for you to master.
Old Fashioned Recipe
- 60ml Maker’s Mark Bourbon
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 dashes of bitters
- 15ml water
- Orange peel
- Sphere ice (if possible)
Place a sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass
Wet it down with Angostura Bitters
And a few drops of water
Muddle together and swirl to line the glass
Add a large ice cube
Pour in Maker’s Mark bourbon
Stir until diluted
Garnish with a twist of orange peel
This article is proudly presented in partnership with Maker’s Mark. Thank you for supporting the brands who support Boss Hunting.