Old fashioned glass water bottles

Old fashioned glass water bottles

The Old Fashioned represents the original definition of a cocktail of spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. In this video, I teach you how to make this classic cocktail in its original form.  

  • The original name for the Old Fashioned was the “Whiskey Cocktail”, based on the technical definition of a cocktail that first appeared in 1806: “a drink containing a spirit, sugar, water, and bitters”.

  • The Whiskey Cocktail was first mentioned in a book in 1862 by Jerry Thomas, and around that time it was even made in large batches and sold as provisions to the Union army in the Civil War.

  • During these early years, this was regarded as a “matutinal cocktail”, meaning you drank it before breakfast.

  • In the 1870’s, bartenders began making the “improved” whiskey cocktail by adding other ingredients such as absinthe, curaçao, maraschino, or all three.

  • Yet in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s, principled drinkers decided that these “improved” cocktails were in fact desecrations of the originals, calling for a return to the “old-fashioned” recipes. Hence, the Old Fashioned we know of was given its new name.

  • From the late 19th century to the advent of Prohibition, it was customary to serve the Old Fashioned with a small silver spoon to scrape out the sugar at the bottom of the glass.

  • During and following Prohibition there was a falling off in quality, with bartenders adding a fruit compote to the drink that was necessary to mask the taste of poor quality liquor.

  • There was a rise in popularity of the Old Fashioned in the 40’s and 50’s, only for it to be eclipsed by the martini in the 60’s and the outlandish club drinks of the 70’s and 80’s.

  • It wasn’t until the 2000’s when the Old Fashioned started appearing in its classic form in cocktail bars such as the Pegu Club (NY), Employee’s Only (NY), and Bourbon and Branch (SF).

  • Now that the Old Fashioned has largely returned to the original recipe from the early 19th century, it stands as an iconic American cocktail and a symbol of the modern cocktail renaissance.

To read more about the history of the Old Fashioned with recipes for variations on this drink, I recommend the book The Old-Fashioned.

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