Boozehound 101: The old fashioned

Old Fashioned
The old fashioned is typically garnished with a brandied cherry and an orange twist. — photo by Noelle Chun via Flickr Creative Commons

In this edition of Boozehound 101, we’re taking a look at yet another one of David Embury’s six basic drinks: the Old Fashioned. There’s a lot of history behind the Old Fashioned, as it may well be the progenitor of the word ‘cocktail’ itself and dates to the early 19th century.

The inherent appeal of the old fashioned is its simplicity: All you need is whiskey — either bourbon or rye whiskey — two dashes of Angostura bitters, a little sugar and ice. Technically, the recipe calls for a sugar cube — but I don’t even know where to get those these days, so I went ahead and added a teaspoon of sugar.

Once you get your sugar into your glass (use a rocks glass or an old fashioned glass — one of those low tumblers with a higher base) then it’s time to add the bitters. Two dashes of bitters results in a pretty subtle flavor, so add more if you want a more prominent taste — I tried variations between two and five drops and all were delicious. After you’ve sugar to the bitters, mix it up. Most recipes call for muddling, but I found it easier just to stir with a spoon and add a few squirts of water as I went.

After muddling, add one to two ice cubes, a shot and a half of whiskey and stir. Voila! You have yourself a Old Fashioned. Drink and enjoy!

Here’s the fun part though: If the simplicity of the Old Fashioned doesn’t do much for you, there’s nothing in the rule book that says you just have to leave it at sugar and bitters. You can use fruit and bitters for instance, and in that case, I would recommend muddling the fruit.

If “muddling” is one of those weird, bartender terms that scares you, don’t worry: All you need is a wooden spoon. Take the handle, smash the fruit really good, and that’s all there is to muddling. If you really want to get technical about it, you can actually purchase your own muddler, which is a bit more substantial, but for purposes of mixing and experimentation, I’d say a wooden spoon will do you just fine.

Out On The Town: If you’re looking to get your hands on an old fashioned in the Iowa City area, there are a couple of options out there for you: Clinton Street Social Club, Devotay, Pullman and the Motley Cow all offer takes on a classic old fashioned. Graze offers a couple of variations on the cocktail: an “Iowan Old Fashioned” uses Cedar Ridge Bourbon, muddled orange, cherry and bitters, and the “Irish Old Fashioned” uses Jameson, bitters, apricot and ginger.

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