The new tale of The Old Fashioned

The world enjoys the “Old Fashioned” more than any other cocktail on the planet, says Drinks International

Tyler Dunne

The debate over what the original cocktail was or where it came from goes the same way as most late-night debates over drinks – blurry.

Although the history is fuzzy, many historians agree cocktails began during the early 1800s with four simple ingredients: booze, bitters, sugar and water. Those four ingredients, whether the original cocktail or not, remain a popular combination today – the most popular around the world, in fact.

The Old Fashioned is as old as the word cocktail itself. Today, the drink sees countless versions of that original recipe. Tyler Dunne/Kicker

Whiskey, bitters, sugar and water make up the Old Fashioned. And, just as its name implies, the drink has retained its basic recipe for more than two centuries.

The resurgence of classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned is evident when examining trends in the restaurant and bar industry.

Joe De Caria, head bartender at the Keg Steakhouse and Bar, says  classic or craft cocktails are making a comeback.

“If you look at any restaurant with a developed bar program, they are jumping on the trend right now – craft beer, craft cocktail,” he said. “Craft cocktail usually means something from the old book of prohibition.”

Many classic cocktails have their history entwined with the prohibition era attributing to the minimal ingredients and intricacy in the drink’s recipe.

Of course, cocktails like the Old Fashioned vary from bar to bar and aren’t usually exact replicas of the drink but rather a take on the classic alcoholic beverage.

Bartenders build upon existing recipes to produce their own twist on the classics. Tyler Dunne/Kicker

A competition held at The Keg invited bartenders to develop their own twist on the Old Fashioned to be judged in a countrywide cocktail challenge.

Sean Gamberg, a judge at the competition, says many bartenders are going back to the basics.

“I think someone who has experience and knows the key to a good cocktail would gravitate back towards the basics, the classic bitters, sugar, water and bourbon,” said Gamberg.

Because the Old Fashioned is composed of only a few ingredients, ingenuity in creating a unique version of the timeless cocktail becomes the challenge. The bartenders tried different syrups and bitters, used peaches and cherries, and blended whiskey with various sweeteners such as brown and raw sugar.

The beginning of cocktails and mixology began with drinks like the Old Fashioned, a blend of medicine and booze to ease the ailments of daily life in the 1800s. Now, in 2018, the reason to order the Old Fashioned may differ but the recipe remains the largely the same.







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