I’ve always enjoyed the flavors of an Old Fashioned but I’ve never been fond of the pulverized bits of cherry and orange floating around in my cocktail or the granules of sugar that settle to the bottom ruining my final sip with grit and excessive sweetness. A couple years ago, I was sitting at a bar where the guest next to me ordered an Old Fashioned. I watched as the bartender dropped a chunk of ice into a rocks glass, dashed some bitters, squirted some simple syrup, added the whiskey and stirred and finally, expressed a lemon peel over the drink — that was it, clean and simple. I inquired about the technique and was told by the bartender that the original Old Fashioned recipe did not call for the muddling of fruit. In that moment, I felt the presence of my cocktail-loving ancestors. It was as though they had descended upon this very bar to show me the way to a proper and delicious Old Fashioned (this may not be far from the truth as this particular bar is, in fact, haunted).
I decided to do some research. Turns out, the original recipe which dates back to the 1850’s called for a sugar cube, bitters and whiskey. Muddling was called for but only for the sugar cube. It seems that, through the years, the recipe has evolved and “modernized” to include the muddled fruit. I for one think the original recipe is the best… although I do prefer simple syrup to the sugar cube.
In my research, I found that the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky claims to be the birthplace of the Old Fashioned. This was debunked by cocktail historian David Wondrich who found mention of the cocktail a dozen years before the Pendennis Club opened. The Pendennis Club did, however, invent another less-know classic cocktail named for the club. The Pendennis Club Cocktail is a gin based sour cocktail. Even if you don’t like gin, give this a try, you’ll be glad that you did.
Old Fashioned Recipe
2 Dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz whiskey
Place sugar cube in rocks glass, add bitters and muddle. Add large ice cube and whiskey and stir. Express a lemon peel over the cocktail and drop into the glass.
Pendennis Club Cocktail Recipe
.5 oz lime juice
1 oz Apricot Liqueur
2 – 3 dashes Peychaud’s Aromatic Bitters
3 oz Old Tom Gin
Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass