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The Opinionated Alchemist's Ideology of the Old Fashioned

It seems that there is for the moment a big Old Fashioned promotion going on. Angostura, which is one ingredient, which is in essentially every bar, tried to push their popularity even further - well they know, that 99% of all bartenders and bars are using their product.

But what is an Old Fashioned? And what makes an Old Fashioned an Old Fashioned?

I have been annoyed, when one of my favorite YouTube channels "How to Drink" really screwed up with this cocktail. So first the video below...

Why did Greg screwed up?

Let's start first with the origins. 

We can safely presume, that the Old Fashioned was the original cocktail:

The first definition of cocktail known to be an alcoholic beverage appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository (Hudson, New York) May 13, 1806; editor Harry Croswell answered the question, "What is a cocktail?":
Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.[6]

Why Old Fashioned? 

When time went on, and bartender became more fancy and added more ingredients (like wine aperitifs like vermouth, but also curaçaos, absinthe and other "stuff") - some guests wanted to have to original cocktail - and "Old Fashioned" is the opposite of "fancy" - hence they ordered the "old fashioned cocktail".

What is an Old Fashioned?

It is really tough to confine. But I would keep it close to the original definition of the "1806 cocktail": Oak aged spirit, bitters, sweetener (sugar, or close relatives like maple syrup, honey, agave syrup etc.)  and water (dilution). 
What has nothing to do in an Old Fashioned? Especially fruits, cream or liqueurs!

Back to Greg: Why did Greg screwed up his Old Fashioned?

He did a Rum Old Fashioned which incorporates (muddled) lime. While I absolutely think, that this cocktail would be amazing - it is no Old Fashioned by a long shot. Even though it is just one ingredient, it just significantly changes the character of the drink - so it isn't recognizable as Old Fashioned.

What is the perfect Old Fashioned?

The Old Fashioned is the simplest cocktail at the same time the cocktail, which you screw up the easiest! Three points are essential: the dilution, the temperature and the proportions.

Those and the essential character of an Old Fashioned: 
The Old Fashioned should have the character of the used spirit (that's why I reject Old Fashioned's with two different distillates, as they will definitely falsify the character). It shouldn't be sweet - nor "spiced" - both the sweetener and the bitters have basically one function: to counter-balance the dilution which occurs.

How to do the perfect Old Fashioned?

I have learned the original way to do an Old Fashioned - and no other way proofed to be superior (nor come close to the quality of my version).

  • Rub a sugar cube on the peel of an organic orange.
  • Soak the same cube with aromatic bitters.
  • Add the infused sugar cube into an Old Fashioned glass.
  • Add a small splash of water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Add 2 normal sized ice cubes and 20 ml of spirit (Rye in the best case)
  • Stir for 5 or so seconds.
  • Add 2 more ice cubes and add another 20 ml of spirit.
  • Stir again for 5 or so seconds.
  • Add another 2 ice cubes and add another 20 ml of spirit.
  • Stir again.
Prepare your thick wide orange twist and scent your cocktail and add the twist and serve.


I can only suggest not to use any type of simple syrup (dilution and temperature will be for sure off). 
The only short cut is, to make one Old Fashioned, then measure exactly the dilution (...) - and then prepare it prebatched - and add the prepped cocktail in the freezer (which prevents over-dilution). 

Do you want to use a big ice cube? Fine - do the same what you did in your Old Fashioned glass in a mixing glass and then hold back your used ice cube and add a big ice cube into a new chilled glass and strain the drink over it.

But really in case of the Old Fashioned (or Negroni) I do think, big ice cubes are pretty useless - and just there for the form - not for the function.


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