The old fashioned’s recent resurgence may have something to do with Don Draper hopping behind the bar to mix a couple in season three of Mad Men. But this cocktail has been kicking around since at least 1806, when the recipe was first printed in a Hudson, NY newspaper. The original recipe called for “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Over time, whiskey became the spirit of choice and the drink simply became known as an old fashioned.
If there’s any drink to learn how to make, it’s this one. Not just because it’s the original cocktail, but since the recipe has gone through so many revisions over the years, the way it’s made is an indicator of the bartender’s taste. You will, in your old fashioned drinking travels, come across ones that are over-sweetened, watered down, or polluted with muddled fruit. At a high-end place, you may find yourself swirling one made with infused liquors and housemade bitters stored in esoteric-looking bottles. I think the best recipe is the original, but as always, you should tailor it to your particular taste.
Clearly Don Draper’s taste runs to a sweet, watery old fashioned made with rye. I prefer it less sweet, with hardly any water, and high quality bourbon. Since this drink is mostly all liquor, quality does matter here, unlike other cocktails where you can get away with second-rate booze. I like Blanton’s for its smoothness, vanilla flavor, and subtle spicy notes. Plus the bottle looks cool as hell, which doesn’t hurt. So here’s what you need:
2 mini sugar cubes (Works out to about 1 teaspoon sugar).
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon water
2 oz bourbon
orange peel (tradition calls for lemon peel, but I like the smell of orange in this drink).
old fashioned glass
Stir! Stir the shit out of the sugar, water, and bitters. Stir longer than you think is reasonable for a human being to stir. You want the sugar to be completely dissolved. You could use pre-made simple syrup instead, but you don’t want this to look too easy, do you? Add your bourbon and stir some more. Fold an orange peel over the drink to express the oils, then drop it in. Add a large chunk of ice. Bask in the satisfaction that your old fashioned just knocked Don Draper’s out of the park.