You cannot get more classic than the Old Fashioned, a humble concoction of four, simple ingredients; whiskey, sugar, bitters and ice.
The Old Fashioned was developed during the early 19th century and given its name in the 1880s, so it’s literally one of the cocktails upon which all mixology is built.
It is said that the fewer ingredients, the harder a cocktail is to master. This is because even the smallest variation in preparation, down to the size of the ice cube, will affect the result.
Here is a recipe that, if followed exactly, we guarantee will make a perfect classic Old Fashioned every time, and a also works as a great starting point to experiment with different variations.
Perfect classic Old Fashioned Recipe
- 2 oz./6cl rye or bourbon
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- 1 large ice cube (or 2-3 normal sized cubes)
- slice of orange peel
Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass or whisky tumbler.
Wet it down with Angostura bitters, crush the sugar with a wooden muddler and rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining.
Add a large ice cube. Pour in the whiskey.
Stir until chilled and properly dilluted, about 30 seconds (depending on the size of the ice cube).
Gently twist the orange peel over the cocktail, so that some of the aromatic oils from the peel land in the glass.
Garnish with the orange twist and serve immediately.
Rye or Bourbon?
Because Old Fashioned is built on Whiskey, and the other ingredients are only accents, it matters a lot which whiskey you use and whether to use bourbon or rye is all up to your personal preference.
If you prefer a dryer, slightly peppery Old Fashioned, then go for a rye.
If you, on the other hand, want a slightly sweeter, rounder and richer flavour, go for a Bourbon.
Reach for the top shelf
Quality matters, and no matter whether you choose a bourbon or rye, go for the top shelf. Life is too short for bad whiskey and you don’t want your delicate work to be spoiled just because you wanted to save and extra $20 on a bottle.
The Old Fashioned glass
The old fashioned glass, sometimes referred to as a lowball glass, is a short tumbler used for serving spirits, such as whisky, neat or on the rocks.
Old fashioned glasses typically have a wide brim and a thick base, so that the non-liquid ingredients of a cocktail can be mashed using a muddler before the main liquid ingredients are added.
A common variant is to substitute the sugar cube with simple syrup, which was the prefferred method of David A. Embury. I tend to agree with Mr Embury. Using simple syrup ensures that it gets dissolved before the drink is to dilluted with water from the ice.
Another variant is to substitute the orange peel for a lemon peel, which gives a slightly fresher aroma, great for an outdoor summer night. I prefer orange with bourbon and lemon with rye, as orange goes well with the sweetness of bourbon, while lemon gives a freshness to the rye.
The peel can also be accompanied by or substituted for a maraschino cherry.