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old old fashioned

I had one made for me Friday night when I asked the bartender to suggest a cocktail with bourbon. It took him about 10 minutes to make the drink. He stirred each ice cube in individually until he was pleased with the final results. I don't recall that he used any fruit, but again I didn't pay full attention. I believe he used what appeared to be a Demerara sugar cube, but I could be wrong.

I've searched all over and can't seem to find a proper recipe. Help!

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  1. Paul Clarke (writes for Imbibe and other publications) is as good of a source as any:

    Old Fashioned

    1 smallish sugar cube (or 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar, to taste) OR 1-2 tsp gomme syrup
    2 dashes Angostura or Fee’s Old-Fashioned Aromatic Bitters
    a few drops of water
    2 ounces bourbon or rye (or 3–what the hell)
    strip of orange or lemon peel

    Place the sugar in an Old Fashioned glass, moisten with the water and bitters then muddle until dissolved (chuck the fruit peel in, if you like–I don’t). Add the whiskey, give it a quick stir, then add a big chunk of ice or two and stir again. Hit it.


    Only thing I would change is increasing the water to dissolve the sugar cube. If you add a teaspoon of sugar, 1 tsp of water will work but 2 tsp of water will make it easier. Effort can be saved by making simple syrup out of demerara or other flavorful sugars (white sugar will work well too), but I have demerara sugar cubes mostly only for Old Fashioneds. Also, muddling with the peel in the drink is one option, the other is to twist over the top to express the oils on the drink's surface (dropping it in or not is your call).


    2 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      Much appreciated, thank you.

      I'll make an attempt at it tonight and post results if anyone's interested.

      1. re: yarm

        do you guys try to completely dissolve the sugar?

        If so, how long does this take and any tips? I spent ~5 minutes yesterday trying to muddle the sugar/water and getting it to dissolve and was only 90%-95% successful.

      2. Sounds like you had a better experience that I did! This weekend I was out with friends (at a casual chain restaurant) and I ordered an Old Fashioned. The bartender asked me "an old fashioned what?" I said "never mind" and ordered a glass of wine, instead.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Ditdah

          At least you didn't order a "Martini" and get a glass of vodka shaken with ice.

          While I love cocktails, I tend to stick to either making them at home or ordering them only at places that have serious cocktail programs. It's great that cocktails are making a resurgence, but without proper training or respect for good ingredients (ie. the stale vermouth that's been on the bar for a year), it's an expensive landmine for consumers. There is no bigger ripoff than ordering a poorly made $10 or $12 cocktail.

          As far as a good old-fashioned: try using a lemon instead of an orange with Rye Whiskey. I find lemon and rye is a great combo, while bourbon and orange work best together.

          1. re: Klunco

            Depends on what you're going after. Orange is softer and lemon is sharper, and your suggestion definitely complements the whiskey types. Some bars do a swath of each.

            The Slate last week had an excellent article on the Old Fashioned that is worth a read given the historical changes in the recipe and perceptions of the drink:

          2. re: Ditdah

            Old Fashioneds in Wisconsin are made with Brandy..usually ordered..Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet or sour or press. Maybe your bartender was from Wisconsin.

          3. For an old old fashioned use Ancient Ancient Age bourbon ;)

            1. I always like an old fashioned, but the last few that I got in Boston had way too much soda water for my liking (I'm talking about 2 to 5 ounces), even at a bar where the bartenders know how to make some good cocktails.

              Nothing is sadder than getting an old fashioned that tastes like you are drinking rye flavored water with a bit of fruit.

              Unless I can tell the bartender directly to use no more than a drop of water, I don't order them.

              1. My recipe may be heretical, but I like a finger of water, a scant teaspoon of turbinado sugar, a couple of shakes of Angostura bitters, and a cherry, plenty of ice, and top up a double old fashioned glass with favorite bourbon or, if feeling penurious, Evan Williams. No soda, no fruit. In the summer for a lighter drink, same drll with Peychaud's.

                1. I love a good "old" old fashioned. Rye (I have usually had made w/ Rittenhouse), bitters, sugar and lemon peel twist. No orange, and definitely no cherries.

                  1. 2 oz. rye (or bourbon, depending on what the guest wants)
                    2-4 dashes of Angostura bitters (I like Angostura so I go with 4)
                    1/4 oz. simple syrup

                    Combine in a mixing glass or tin, add ice, stir until chilled and diluted for taste (stirring time depends on the ice)

                    Strain and pour over a large ice cube in a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a large orange strip first squeezed over top the drink.

                    The traditional way is to soak the sugar cube with bitters and muddle it, but I prefer Robert Hess's suggestion to just use simple syrup. It's quicker and blends better IMO.

                    Garnish is also optional between lemon or orange twist. I prefer orange but some prefer lemon, so ask first.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                      I would probably take that up to 1/2 oz. simple syrup. Preferably made with dark muscovado sugar.

                        1. re: ns1

                          Not if you are properly stirring the syrup with the 2 oz. of spirits and the bitters on ice for a good 25-35 seconds. Then strain into a glass over a large cube or two.

                          1. re: JMF

                            In comparison my current recipe (and many similar recipes) call for 1 sugar cube (5g), vs the 1/2 oz of simple syrup in yours (approx 12g sugar)

                            I did try out a 2 sugar cube old fashioned just a few days ago and found it waaaaaaaaay too sweet.

                            1. re: JMF

                              If not specified, when "simple syrup" is referred to in a recipe is the convention 1:1 or 2:1?

                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                Usually... 1:1 is simple syrup, 2:1 is rich syrup

                                1. re: JMF

                                  Thanks, that makes sense. Now I recall having heard that before - but I still see some recipes refer to "2:1 simple syrup".

                            2. re: ns1

                              This all comes down to personal preference. Try 1/4 oz, 1/3 oz, and 1/2 oz and see what suits you.

                              I prefer 1/4 oz. but I've realized a lot of the bars around here add 1/2 oz. which is a bit sweet for my tastes, but makes sense in the context of most people's palate. Often when I make them for guests who don't drink a lot of cocktails, I use 1/2 oz. which goes a long way toward their enjoyment of the drink.