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The Old Fashioned Cocktail
Photo by Jay Hepburn, Oh Gosh! TV

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

Entry Date: January 2010

About the Drink

From the Essential Cocktail by ICE Master Judge Dale DeGroff…

For the Old Fashioned, claimed by the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky as their own, there are two philosophies: muddle fruit, or don’t muddle fruit. All other things being equal, I’m always partial to the flavor that’s added from muddling—if you flip around this book, you’ll notice a lot of muddling about—so I belong to the first school of thought, and below is the definitive muddled version. But the old-fashioned Old Fashioned was simply a sugar cube, bitters, and water, muddled until dissolved, then chilled with ice and mixed with whiskey and garnished with a lemon peel—no fresh fruit. A very simple drink whose name refers to the almost identical presentation of the first cocktails in the first cocktail book, the 1862 edition of Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks, which set the standard definition of the cocktail as a strong spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters. The muddled fruit came in the twentieth century, which softened the Old Fashioned into more of a punchy drink, and it has become a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas pre-dinner cocktail in a lot of households."

David Wondrich, ICE Master Judge and author of Imbibe! casts doubt on the common Pendennis Club origin since there are references to the Old-Fashioned cocktail before the Pendenis Club was founded in 1881.

From Imbibe! by ICE Master Judge David Wondrich...

"Everything new always turfs up a few people who liked the old way better. So no one should be surprised that when the plain Cocktail began gathering unto its bosom troubling dashes of curacoa and absinthe and truly alarming splashes of vermouth, fruit juice, and orgeat syrup, there were those who cried bloody murder...

The Old-Fashioned was a drinker's plea for a saner, quieter, slower life, one in which a gent could take a drink or two without fear that it would impair his ability to dodge a speeding streetcar or operate a rotary press."


Preferred Formulations

Dave Wondrich, ICE Master Judge
“Place 1/2 teaspoon Demerara sugar in the bottom of a 6-oz Old-Fashioned glass.
Add 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters or Fee's Whiskey-Barrel bitters and 1 teaspoon water.
Muddle until sugar has dissolved.
Add 2 oz straight rye whiskey (either Van Winkle Family reserve or Rittenhouse bonded) and stir.
Add 2 ice cubes, cracked, and 1 or 2 whole cubes.
Stir again and twist a thin-cut swatch of lemon peel over the top.
Then smile.”

Dale DeGroff, ICE Master Judge
“1 level teaspoon superfine bar sugar, or 1 to 2 sugar cubes, to taste
2 ounces bourbon
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 orange slices
2 Maraschino cherries
Splash of water or seltzer”

Gary Regan, ICE Master Judge
“The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail with Fresh Peach (adapted from a recipe by Gary Regan, Ardent Spirits, NY)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 wedges ripe peach
90 ml (3 oz) bourbon or straight rye whiskey
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and peach wedges in an old-fashioned glass.
Add ice and the whiskey. Stir briefly.

This drink was created for Pete Buttiglieri one Summer afternoon, circa 2003. Pete, one of the owners of Painter's, an inn in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, popped in on Gary Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology, and insisted on an Old-Fashioned, fruit-style. An over-ripe peach was the only fruit on hand...

Ryan Magarian, ICE Master Judge
“The beauty of the Old Fashioned Cocktail is that while whiskey would have been the preferred based spirit during its heyday in the late 19th Century, it is a mixed drink template that works with just about any base spirit of your choosing. In the summer, I love an Old Fashioned made with gin, in the colder winter months I am more likely to reach for Rye Whiskey, Overproof Bourbon, or an Aged Rum.

For rye whiskey, I am pretty darn happy with the reasonably priced Old Overholt, with Bourbon, Knob Creek is delicious, finally, with rum, Havana Club 7 yr. is absolutely dynamite if you happen to be able to get your mitts on a bottle.
  • 2 oz. of spirit
  • ¼ oz. of syrup (simple, demerara, or clover honey)
  • Two dashes of bitters (brand determined by the base spirit used)
This, of course, is a starting point, and depending on the base spirit, your sugar and bitter ratios might change dramatically.”


Jamie Boudreau, ICE Master Judge
"2 oz. Rye (brand depends on whatever my wallet allows: Rittenhouse 100/Sazerac 18)
1/4 oz of 2:1 simple syrup
3 dashes of Hermes aromatic bitters
Stir and strain into a glass
Garnish with an orange zest and one griottine cherry"