For most of my cocktail-drinking life I’ve ignored the Old Fashioned and yet, over the past year, it’s become one of my favourite cocktails. Made with just a base spirit (usually bourbon), sugar and bitters, it’s a drink for those who want to taste the alcohol and it varies in flavour depending on the combination of spirit and bitters.
Most bartenders make an Old Fashioned with sugar syrup, with one telling me that a cube takes too long to dissolve and leads to drinks where the sweetness is heavier at the bottom of the drink. I can’t argue with this, especially since he’s considered one of the best bartenders in Australia, but as someone who makes drinks at home and not behind a bar I don’t always have sugar syrup at home – plus I’m hokey enough to like making drinks the old fashioned way (bad pun intended). As such, I usually use cubes.
My recipe is this:
- One sugar cube
- 2 ounces (60ml) of bourbon or whisky or rye
- 3-5 dashes of bitters
You simply place the sugar into the glass, add a few drops of water to help the sugar dissolve, followed by the bitters, and muddle. Add the ice and the alcohol, and stir. Adding fruit should be avoided except for the peel of an orange (or other citrus fruit). Twist (or flame it) over the drink to extract some oils, rub the peel around the edge of the glass and drop it in.
As simple as this drink is, however, there are a lot of conflicting opinions as to how to make it. Some say you should add the alcohol before the ice. Some say you shouldn’t stir – but instead serve it with a swizzle stick and let whoever receives the drink stir it to reduce dilution. And then there’s the approach of adding a little alcohol, stirring, adding more alcohol and more ice and stirring again. I’m lazy – so I just stir a few times at the end until the glass frosts nicely.
As for what spirit you use – well, there are unlimited variations. I’ve had success using Monkey Shoulder scotch and Fee Brothers orange bitters, Bulleit rye with Peychaud’s bitters and Woodford Reserve with Angostura bitters.
There are also some great variations of the Old Fashioned in Sydney bars – my favourite is the Banana Old Fashioned at Gardel’s, followed by a Honeycomb and Maple Old Fashioned that I once had at Tokonoma (although that was a while ago) and at Honeyrider you can choose what bourbon or rum you want in your Old Fashioned.
If you have any suggestions about the Old Fashioned – or have had a good one somewhere – then leave a comment below: