Making an Old Fashioned Cocktail

While watching the bartender make an Old Fashioned at the newly opened Kirkwood Lounge (formerly Azalea), it was obvious that there are many ways to mix an Old Fashioned cocktail. The bartender and Sean Wilson go out of their way to put a unique twist on a lot of the ingredients for common cocktails, so if you are looking for traditional recipes then maybe the new Kirkwood Lounge is not the place to go. But you would lose out on a lot of the fun in ordering cocktails. Nothing is set in stone. But this did spur me to do some research on making the “Old Fashioned.” After I congratulated myself with having found what I assumed to be the oldest printed recipe for an Old Fashioned I found that someone had beaten me to the punch with a Wikipedia entry. Anyway, here is the oldest recipe found to date:

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass. Add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with a small bar spoon and serve, leaving spoon in the glass.

p. 43, Modern American Drinks: How to mix and serve all kinds of cups and drinks, by George J. Kappeler, Saalfield Publishing Co. Copyright, 1895.

A very similar recipe appears in the October 30, 1944 issue of Life Magazine in an ad by Four Roses Whiskey and it has a bit more detail:

½ lump sugar
1 ½ oz. whiskey
2 dashes of bitters
1 twist of lemon peel.

Muddle sugar, bitters and lemon peel with a little water in an Old-Fashioned glass. Add ice cubes. Then pour in whiskey and stir.

This Four Roses Whiskey recipe is probably about as close to an authentic recipe with actual measurements as you will find. Some say that the Old Fashioned recipe started to go off the rails after Prohibition. Here is the first post-Prohibition recipe that I could find:

Now make what is really and old-fashioned cocktail. Sugar water, a dash of Angostura bitters, a few of he whisky-soaked mint leaves crushed with a muddler. Then a drink of the mint-flavored whisky. Ice and stir, add in a slice of lemon, a slice of orange and a cherry.

p. 199, Along the wine trail. An anthology of wines and spirits G. Selmer Fougner, 1935.

I do not know where the mint comes from. Prohibition did introduce to the public a lot of really poorly made whiskeys and perhaps the mint was a necessary introduction to hide some bad taste. In fact, Gin took off during prohibition because the herbs could hide some of the worst attributes of a poorly made spirit.

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