Old-Fashioned debate: 2 cocktails with 1 name + recipes

on 24/05/14 at 12:00 pm

Booze News

indexFew drinks are as steeped in controversy as the Old-Fashioned, particularly since the name refers to two different drinks.

One is a drink at its most austere — just a brown spirit, typically but not always whiskey, along with bitters, sugar and maybe a few drops of water and/or a twist of lemon or orange — that harks back to the very earliest cocktails.

The other — featuring muddled fruit, most often an orange and cherry, along with whiskey, bitters, sugar, a splash of soda water and ice — is a throwback to the post-Prohibition era or perhaps earlier. Robert Simonson’s new book, “The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, With Recipes and Lore,” suggests that even though a recipe calling for muddled fruit first appeared in print in 1934, the cocktail may stem from Prohibition when drinkers used muddled fruit to mask the flavors of bad booze.

And depending on where you are and who’s behind the bar when you order an Old-Fashioned — say a bartender at the Coq D’Or at Chicago’s old-school Drake Hotel or Charles Joly, beverage director at the Aviary, the Alinea team’s high-concept cocktail lounge — will determine which Old-Fashioned you get.

Coq D’Or has been making Old-Fashioneds with muddled fruit for at least a quarter century and probably far longer, says Kyle Morrow, the bar’s assistant manager. Given that the bar opened just after Prohibition, the fruity cocktail is what people who come to the Drake expect, he says.

“It’s the old-school way,” Morrow says.

But Joly prefers the version made with a big, overproofed spirit, say the 100-proof Rittenhouse rye, with the whiskey’s edge taken off by the addition of simple syrup and bitters.

“It’s a great way to prepare any spirit,” he says. “Just round out the spirit enough so you’re not drinking straight booze.”

READ MORE

BUY Robert Simonson’s new book, “The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, With Recipes and Lore”