Old School or New School? An in Depth look at the Old Fashioned Cocktail I feel that this cocktail is even more controversial than the Martini. I have found that there are close to 100 recipes for the Old Fashioned Cocktail with different variations adding spirits/liqueurs, even spices such as cinnamon, and fruits such as oranges, cherries, and pineapples, yes, pineapples. How do I know this? Collectif 1806 proudly owns one of the largest cocktail book (physical/digital) library collection which I would be more than happy to give you guys access to, just message me. I also feel at this point that there is no wrong way as there are so many but, by preference (no muddling), I like to make mine as the one defined in print in 1806 and every once in awhile get a little adventurous adding other sweet liqueurs, homemade syrups, a variety of bitters, and citrus oils/peels.
First, and foremost, The “Old Fashioned” is the perfect meaning of the word “Cocktail” which was first printed on May 13th, 1806 in a Hudson, New York Newspaper called the The Balance and Columbian Repository. This “Cocktail” was interpreted in this newspaper as “Spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters-it is vulgarly called a bittered sling” (no signs of a muddler yet, orange, and/or cherry for that matter), many of us already know this. As Americans, we have coined this definition and something very much to be proud of. In 1862, when the first cocktail book “The Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks” was written in United States by The Professor also known as Jerry Thomas, this drink appeared as a “Whiskey Cocktail”.
There were other variations of “cocktails” in Jerry’s book and other books that also called for liqueurs such as curacao, absinthe, etc… as an added option. There was still no signs of this drink even called the “Old Fashioned” until 1882 when its recipe appeared in the “New and Improved Bartenders Manual” by Harry Johnson as “Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail” and named after the glassware, still no muddler, orange, nor cherry though. There was although an option of putting a cherry “or” an olive in this books version of the “Whiskey Cocktail”. Was this the beginning of the cherry inside this drink? Don’t know… In fact, most “Whiskey Cocktails” aka Old Fashioned Cocktail were served with a lemon peel.
Now, fast track to through a few other cocktail books, and you will find that in 1903 the same option (Cherry or Olive) in the “Whiskey Cocktail” inside “Daly’s Bartender Encyclopedia” by Tim Daly. Fast track a few more cocktail books and the first sign of an orange in ways of a peel was in 1917’s “Recipes for mixed drinks” by Hugo R. Ensslin. His recipe also called for GIN along with a pineapple slice for a garnish. Now the first sign of an actual orange slice appears in 1933 “What you’ll have” by Julian J. Proskauer in his “Old Fashioned” Cocktail. Then again an orange in the “Old Fashioned” in 1934 in “The Artistry of Mixing Drinks” by Frank Meier along with a cherry in his variation of the “Whiskey Cocktail”. Then again in 1935 “Old Mr. Boston’s Bartender’s Guide by Leo Cotton, then again in 1936 in “Cocktail Fashions of 1936” STILL NO MUDDLING, only fruits as garnishes.
Not even Trader Vic in the 40’s muddled fruits into his “Old Fashioned” Then, debates arose in books such as 1949’s “Esquire’s Handbook For Hosts” by Esquire Inc. which stated “The Old Fashioned, them what likes their Old Fashions without sugar, without bitters, without water or seltzer, without ice and certainly without fruit are just too old-fashioned to name their drink as “straight whiskey, please.” “Actually, the only debatable part of an Old Fashioned is the fruit garnish, the cherry, orange-slice and sometime stick of pineapple which serious drinkers claim interfere with their Old-Fashioned elbow bending.
Here’s how!” STILL NO MUDDLING! I dug into more books like the 1948, “Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury, he also used liqueurs such as curacao, Cointreau, Chartreuse, and even Strega in his Old Fashioned Then other books such as “International Guide to Drinks” by UKBG… STILL NO MUDDLING.Then, it gets really really interesting! It wasn’t until the 90’s actually in 1995 when I saw the first sign of muddling an orange and a cherry in an Old Fashioned. It was “The Book Of Bourbon” by Gary Regan and Mardee Haidin Regan which stated “In an old-fashioned glass, combine the orange slice, cherry, bitters, water and sugar. Using the back of a spoon, muddle the ingredients, dissolving the sugar and mashing up the fruit somewhat. Fill the glass with ice cubes, add the bourbon and stir gently.”
So there you have it. Here’s a fun variation of the Old Fashioned but using Rum as a base spirit.
Blood Old Fashioned
- 2 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel
- *½ oz. Blood Orange Cordial (See instructions Below)
- 2 Dashes of Angostura
*Blood Orange Cordial
In a sauce pan, add 1 cup of Blood Orange Juice, add peels and rind of 2 full blood oranges. Bring to a boil and reduce juice to ½ cup over to remove some of the water within the fruit. Add ½ cup of turbinado sugar and stir to fully dissolve. Add 1 oz. of vodka to the mix and store.
In a mixing glass, combine all the ingredients above and stir with ice, strain over a large ice cup in an “Old Fashioned” rocks glass.
Garnish: Citrus Peels