Cult Classics: The Old Fashioned

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Today is International Whisky/Whiskey Day (spelling it is always a contentious issue). And to mark the occasion, we’re kicking off our Highball Cult Classics series with the granddaddy of cocktails, the Old Fashioned.

Kick back with a few facts on the cocktail that allegedly started it all:

  • So how old fashioned is the Old Fashioned? Pretty old. Like, 1806 old. A basic recipe for “a potent concoction of spirits, bitter, water and sugar”, first mentioned in the periodical, The Balance and Columbian Repository in Hudson, New York, was considered the precursor to the Old Fashioned. This elixir was essentially an Old Fashioned, made with any spirit of your choosing, and defined the word ‘cocktail’ for many years, until drinkers started ordering Old Fashioneds, in earnest, in the 1880s.

  • Many cocktail historians claim the Old Fashioned as we now know it was first invented at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky

  • Which is probably why the Old Fashioned has its own dedicated two-week, annual festival in Louisville, Kentucky called Old Fashioned Fortnight.

  • The Old Fashioned recently came back into mainstream, er… fashion, thanks in part to its cult status as Don Draper’s (notorious mid-century philanderer/creative marketing genius of TV’s Mad Men fame) favourite drink. (He preferred his made with Rye Whiskey).

  • As of 2018, the Old Fashioned retained its position as the world’s most popular cocktail for the fourth year in a row; it’s the number one drink in nearly 30% of the world's best bars.

Those facts got you feeling Old Fashioned? Here’s a recipe, care of our very own Highball Manager and legendary Wellington cocktail alchemist, Riki Carter.

Old Fashioned Recipe

50 ml Monkey Shoulder Whisky

2 dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters

2 orange zest/peel

1 cube of sugar or 2.5 ml of sugar syrup

1 large cube of ice

  • Soak sugar with the bitters and crush in the bottom of a lowball glass.

  • Flame an orange peel by holding the coloured side down about five centimetres above a lit match, to warm up the oils. Add peel to glass and stir.

  • Add large cube of ice and whisky; stir until the level of the liquid is the same as the ice

  • Rim the glass with a fresh zest of orange. Use of cherry is optional (more of an American style, and may insult purists!).

To discover even more variations on the Old Fashioned recipe, visit Liquorland Toast.

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JoAnne Carr