I love the scene in Mad Men where Don Draper is entertaining guests at home and he has his daughter Sally, who’s about eight years old at the time, make him his favorite cocktail, an “Old Fashioned”. As she presents it to him, he says with a scowl, “Muddled, it means smash it.” Although he drinks it anyway, of course, as Don never met a drink he didn’t like. The “Old Fashioned”, as its name indicates, has been around a while, a long time in fact, since the dawn of cocktails. And over the past two hundred plus
years, it’s been presented in numerous ways. The first written account of something called a “cocktail” dates back to 1806, in Hudson, New York. A new “potent concoction” had been created comprised of four distinctive parts: spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. And over the course of the 19th century, this evolved through many incarnations, in many places, into the “Old Fashioned”, employing rum, absinthe, orange curaçao, gin, brandy, cognac, Irish whiskey, rye, and finally bourbon, with the addition of muddled fruit such as lemon peel, orange slices, and Maraschino cherries.
The first time the name “Old Fashioned” was used for a bourbon cocktail was at the Pendennis Club, founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of straight bourbon whiskey. And since then, Louisville has laid claim to it, and in 2015, declared it as “Louisville’s Official Cocktail.” Every year during the first two weeks of June, Louisville celebrates “Old Fashioned Fortnight.” Two weeks of bourbon, bourbon, and more bourbon, culminating on June 14th, with National Bourbon Day. The “Old Fashioned" is a true classic with a storied past and a rebirth in pop culture, and this month’s RETRO COCKTAIL…
2 parts Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey
1 tsp (or one cube) Sugar
splash of Canada Dry Club Soda
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 fresh Orange wheels
2 Maraschino cherries
Muddle* one of the Orange wheels, one of the Maraschino cherries, the sugar, the Club Soda, and the bitters in the bottom of a tumbler or Old Fashioned glass. Carefully discard the orange peel, the pulpy orange, and the mashed-up cherry. Add the Bourbon, then stir. Fill the glass with ice and stir again. Add the other Orange wheel and the other Maraschino cherry as a garnish.
In this example, I used fresh Tangerine wheels, Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino Cherries, Hella Bitters Aromatic bitters, and a splash of Cointreau.
*For a less fruity version, omit the muddled orange and cherry.
And part of the fun to be had with these venerable Vintage Cocktails, the inspired variations on a theme…
2 parts E&J Brandy VS
splash of Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1 sugar cube
2 half slices fresh Pink Grapefruit
2 Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherries
splash of Canada Dry Club Soda
3 dashes of Hella Bitters Citrus bitters or Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters
Prepare as in original recipe.
**My new favorite Old Fashioned!
In the original recipe, substitute two fresh Blood Orange wheels
for the Orange wheels.
Then substitute 2 parts Canadian Club Canadian Whisky*** for the Bourbon.
Prepare as in original recipe. Garnish with a slice of fresh Blood Orange.
***Don Draper's favorite.
The Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Yes, an "Old Fashioned" and a good cigar would be just fine...