(This is first in a series of blogs on vintage cocktails from the early 1960's, authored by master mixologist, Danny Ronen who will be sharing the history of cocktails, recipes and stories at Timber Cove Inn on Saturday June 29th from 3:00-5:00 PM in honor of our 50th birthday in 1963)
The Old Fashioned is the grand daddy of all cocktails. Why, you ask?
During what we consider the Golden Era of cocktails, from about 1870 to 1920, there was a bevvy of cocktail creation, somewhat due to Jerry Thomas' 1862 book, "The Bon Vivant's Companion," the first known book to allow bartenders across the ocean to share cocktail recipes, many of whom used homemade syrups and other creatively concocted ingredients were true mixologists, craftsmen and women. This helped to spread the word about all things new and inventive, but when the old-timers would come into the bar, they'd say, "I don't want any of those new, fancy drinks... just give it to me the old fashioned way..."
And since the cocktail itself was first defined in print as spirit, sugar, water and bitters, the Old Fashioned was branded as the most basic of all drinks, a proto-cocktail, if you will.
All that is old is new, so during the boozy cocktail chapter of the early sixties, the Mad Men era, the Old Fashioned was back, acting as the dark and old school brother to the also-popular all spirit dry martini.
Now that we're all caught up and properly thirsty, it's time to make yourself a delightful Old Fashioned!
1/4 - 1/2 simple syrup* (depending on how sweet you'd like it)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Regans' Orange bitters
Stir until very cold, strain into an Old Fashioned glass.
You can serve this either neat or strained over one large cube and an orange horseneck (long peel that snakes around the entire circumference of the glass, as seen in the photo -- just make sure to squeeze those orange oils over the glass before you fit the horseneck peel in there!)
*1-to-1 sugar to water, see more options below
For your whiskey, I would lean toward these in your Old Fashioned: Templeton Rye, Elijah Craig 12yr Bourbon, Eagle Rare 10yr Bourbon and for the more adventurous, the higher-proof Booker's Bourbon and George T Stagg Bourbon.
Some cocktail enthusiasts will tell you that it's not an Old Fashioned if you don't use sugar cubes -- there's nothing wrong with the sugar cube and these days, with crazy laser-cut cubes, we know exactly how much sugar we're getting every single time. However, if you're making your own simple syrup (ie., equal parts sugar and water), that is a perfectly acceptable way of bringing sweetness to your cocktail. If you'd like to change it up, you can always try using different sugar, like brown, maple, coconut, palm or Sugar in the Raw (or various flavored sugars -- this is definitely not grandpa's Old Fashioned, but can be an immensely fun way to create new flavors for you and your friends -- if you go this route, I would recommend sticking to savory spices like cumin, saffron or smoked paprika).
At the end of the day, have fun, enjoy yourself and make a fun beverage you can share, whether with a young cocktail enthusiast or a seasoned octogenarian -- an Old Fashioned never goes out of style...