The Old Fashioned cocktail is not only a classic drink, but also antique and vintage (at least according to the time period based legal definitions applied to cars). However, the old fashioned is much ‘older’ than that.
If you take away the fruit, which seems to have been a Prohibition Era adder, an 1806 definition of the word cocktail almost perfectly describes the Old Fashioned drink recipe.
“Cock tail, then is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling ..” ~ The editor of The Balance and Columbian Repository, Hudson, N.Y., May 13, 1806
While the old fashioned formula may not qualify as a byzantine beverage, this colonial cocktail is certainly a sippable species bordering on renaissance refreshment (see below, its sort of like Shakespeare*). Most credit a bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville circa late 1700s for fashioning the original, although ..
Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:
- 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 cube or tsp sugar
- 1 tsp water or club soda
Use a muddler to mash the sugar cube, bitters and water together in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass. Add a large ice ball or cube and top with whiskey. Garnish with optional lemon twist, orange slice and maraschino cherry. Serve with a stir rod or straw to mix up the sugar granules as needed.
Variations include muddling the fruit too (instead of using as a garnish) or shaking fruit and all to release the flavors. A simple syrup recipe version instead of sugar is part of the top 10 drink favorites which stays more consistently sweet other than the effects of melting ice diluting the drink.
The old fashioned cocktail played a role in the spirited history of America’s taverns and should be a mainstay of your home bar as well. Recommend the pre-prohibition pilgrim potation which also makes a great Thanksgiving themed tipple.
* - the editor is responding to a subscriber’s letter who rattles off an impressive list of phrases to rival Ben Franklin’s collection of drinking terms but had never heard of the term “cock tail” before. The reader then asks: “Will you be so obliging as to inform me what is meant by this species of refreshment?“
Cocktail had been first published a week earlier as a politician’s balance sheet item under the loss column. The quote above continues on to say: “and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.”
Better add the old fashioned cocktail to your political party drinks menu on election night too.