Most cocktails worth drinking have interesting backstories.
During the first half of the 19th century, after a long day of piercing earth with pick axe in the grimy bowels of a coal mine, when you plopped your kiester down at the tavern and asked your trusted bartender to fix you up a cocktail, what you were served was a medley of sugar, spirit and bitters garnished with an orange or a lemon twist.
During the second half of the 19th century, cocktails became more complex. Bartenders began adding all sorts of liqueurs. Nostalgic drinkers, thirsty for simpler times, began to ask for a cocktail made the old way. “Come on, Lloyd. Make me a drink the old fashioned way!” And thus, The Old Fashioned was born.
I’ve had Old Fashioned a couple different ways. Here is my favorite way to prepare the cocktail.
First, place one and a half sugar cubes in your cocktail glass, and then splash the cubes with five to ten dashes of angostura bitters. Muddle the sugar cube lightly. Make sure that there are still nice, thick chunks of sugar in there for a chunky texture. Now, peel a big swath of skin off of a juicy orange. I’ve seen people use a dainty little strip of orange zest during this phase of the recipe. Don’t do that. Trust me. A small zest looks great as a garnish, but it’s not going to pack flavor. Crack and twist your orange peel and guide the citrus spray onto the sugar and bitters. Next, do some more muddling. Really rub that peel into the base of the glass with your peeler or a bar tool, mixing it with the sugar and the bitters. Remember, if you want chunk, don’t muddle to dissolution. Pour in 2 ounces of quality rye bourbon. Add an ounce of soda water. Yes, you read that right. Carbonate that bastard.
I really like the Old Fashioned. It is one of the few cocktails I can drink all night without growing tired of it. It’s the beer of cocktails, if that makes sense! It tastes like bourbon with the edge taken off plus a citrus twist. Very straight forward and light.
One and half cubes sugar
5-10 dashes Angostura bitters
1 large orange peel
2 ounces rye bourbon
1 ounce soda water