Everything You Need to Know About the King of Cocktails: The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned was named the official cocktail of Louisville, Kentucky on June 4, 2015. According to most sources it was invented here at the Pendennis Club in 1881 when patrons supposedly asked for a cocktail “made the old fashioned way.”

To many this meant sugar and bitters, as the alcohol back then was still made without government regulations and could be hard to swallow, literally, without a little help.

Over the years the recipe got, well, muddled. Some people were literally muddling fruit like oranges and cherries into their Old Fashioneds, while others were opting for the simple classic expressed flamed orange peel overtop.

There is no shortage of strong opinions about this topic among the bartenders in Louisville. But as long as you make something that has Bourbon, bitters, sugar, and some sort of orange peel you’re generally safe calling it an Old Fashioned.

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How to make a basic muddled Old Fashioned?

*2 oz. Bourbon ¼ oz. simple syrup or a sugar cube
*2 dashes Angostura Bitters
*Orange Slice, orange peel, and cherry

Muddle sugar, orange slice, and cherry in the bottom of your serving glass. Add ice, Bourbon and bitters. Stir and garnish with flamed orange peel.

In 2014, we were chatting about Bourbon with Erik Adkins of Hard Water (also referred to as "Whiskey Heaven" among its San Francisco clientele). You can check his version of the Old Fashioned recipe to see how the cocktail is prepared in one of the best Whiskey bars in America. 

Again, there are endless variations you can make here...

You can muddle in some different fruit, use Rye Whiskey, or even use Brandy for a Wisconsin Old Fashioned. One Louisville bartender has his own special recipe using a syrup he makes from Craft Beer.

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“Beer Syrup is a non-alcoholic syrup made from different styles of Craft Beer that can be used behind the bar as well as in the kitchen,” says Louisville Bartender and Beer Syrup Company Founder Russ Meredith.

“When used to make cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Beer Syrup is essential to changing the overall flavor profile of the cocktail since there's very few ingredients in the recipe. I like to use different combinations of Beer Syrups and flavored Bitters to offer a twist to the Old Fashioned and this has always been one of my favorite recipes using the Pecan Nut Brown flavor."
"It's light and malty with a nutty finish and when used in lieu of other sweeteners, it gives the Old Fashioned cocktail more body due to the malt base from the beer. I like the flavor it offers and when paired with the right Bourbon, it makes one of the best Old Fashioneds I've ever had.”


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How to Make Nutty Old Fashioned?

*2 oz. Bourbon (preferably a high Rye Bourbon, not as sweet)
*¼ oz. Pecan Nut Brown Beer Syrup
*3 dashes Aromatic Bitters (try using Orange or Peach Bitters too)
*Expressed orange peel garnish

Combine all ingredients in a midnight glass and stir with ice. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with an ice ball and then garnish with an expressed orange peel.

There are many ways to make an Old Fashioned, and it’s an easy cocktail to try at home. Mix up a few different variations until you find the one you like best, or better yet put together an Old Fashioned bar for your guests to experiment for your next gathering!

READ MORE ABOUT: old fashioned, bourbon, kentucky, whiskey

By Maggie Kimberl

Maggie Kimberl

Maggie Kimberl is an internationally published spirits journalist who focuses on Bourbon. She considers herself to be "geographically blessed" to live in Louisville, Kentucky, the epicenter of Bourbonism. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @LouGirl502.



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