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Jan 16, 2012 03:02 PM

Old Fashioned Cocktail Neat?

Booze Hounds, help me out, please. This has happened to me twice in the last couple of months. While out at a bar I have ordered an Old Fashioned. When the drinks were served they were neat. I requested ice and was accommodated, but I have never in my life heard of that. Is this some sort of new thing or just a strange aberration? Both bartenders were quite young. Just to make sure I hadn't missed something I did a Google image search of "old fashioned cocktail" and every image showed ice in the glass. Please advise.

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  1. The Sazerac is a fancy Old Fashioned served down (stirred with ice, strained into a rocks glasses). However, I have never seen a written recipe for an Old Fashioned that is served without ice (either a single cube, shaved ice, many cubes, etc).

    It also seems like more effort for the bartender to chill a drink by stirring and then strain it into a rocks glass than it is to build it in a glass and add ice. Unless of course these bartenders served it to you unchilled and undiluted. Another possibility is that they muddled the fruit and wanted the flavor but didn't want the fruit bits inside so they strained it (although I have only seen this done once in a "Hot Old Fashioned" served as a Toddy).

    I do know from local bartenders that people will request their Old Fashioneds served down (strained into a rocks glass). And in one instance served up (straining into a cocktail glass). But this isn't standard in any recipe other than the Sazerac and fancier drinks than a basic Old Fashioned.

    8 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      "Down" I have really learned something on CH. Yarm, I genuflect in your general direction!

      MY take on the questions was vastly more simplistic than Yarm's.

      I chalked it up to inexperience and misunderstanding. I was going to bet that the young tender HEARD old-fashioned, but THOUGHT Manhattan...thus built the cocktail for, and served it as, an up drink.

      However, I was taught to muddle the sugar/cherry/orange/bitters, with a dash of wash, in the bottom of the glass in which the bev would be served. Then fill with ice, add the called booze and hit it with the called wash.

      I like "Whiskey Old Fashioned Pres", but "Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet" is the state cocktail, here in Wisconsin.

      All this said, I could NOT conceive any tender trying to muddle in an up/martini glass.

      I agree that building/muddling in one glass, or shaker, and decanting to the up glass to be a pain. If that WAS done, I agree with would have to be strained. Having all those solids floating around would defeat the aesthetic appeal of the up glass.

      My two cents

      1. re: Monch

        When I learned to make (but not consume) them as a child, I did so for my grandmother. It was a standard muddle affair and served on the rocks. But it was also Deep South and she was often on the screen porch. Years later I knew an older woman in Uptown New Orleans who liked hers made according to her specificl formula and I suspect it dated from prohibition days. Muddle everything in the old fashioned glass which has been chilled wither in icebox or with some ice in it. Add your bitters (she preferred Peychaud). Take your whiskey and put it in a cocktail shaker with one BIG piece of ice--hers was culled from blocks made in meatloaf pans. Shake hell out of it (but you didn't need much time) just to put a bead on it, pour into glass and stir a little bit with a silver, not stainless, spoon. It was a cross between Old Fashioned and Sazerac in a way. I still make one once in awhile.

        1. re: hazelhurst


          I have some Templeton Rye that has been waiting for a worthy cocktail...I've been enjoying it on the rocks.

          I will try to replicate the Uptown Old Fashioned. I assume that the wash was simply water or seltzer...not soda pop as is used up here behind the Cheddar Curtain in Wisconsin.

          1. re: Monch

            If she had simple syrup then we muddled in that. Otherwise, the old trick of sugar and some water. Ther was also a favored method, once upon a time, of soaking a sugar cube with the bitters, then crushing it. No soda pop, though.

            1. re: hazelhurst


              The reason I ask is that my wife's go-to cocktail is "Southern Comfort Old-Fashioned Sweet...with Olives" her to death.

              THIS however results in a concoction that she adores but is sticky-sweet to my tastes.

              We were in NOLA between Christmas and New Years and I did an experiment.

              At two bars, Bar Uncommon and Oak Wine Bar, I ordered an special instructions...I wanted to see what I got...

              The results, to my palate, were smashing. To my WIFE'S palate, the results were "boozy" and not sweet enough.

              Thanks for the feedback.

            2. re: Monch

              Templeton Rye makes a great Manhattan as well ...

              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                THAT I have already tried! I concur.

                I shrink from using it in too many's so DAMN good on the rocks!

                I am lucky to have a steady supply coming over the border from Iowa to Wisconsin.

                (Even have had the privilege of taste-testing the "TR" version of the product!)

                1. re: Monch

                  Although I live in North Central Iowa, it is not the easiest bottle to find ... and I agree about it being great "on the rocks" as well.

      2. Off the top of my head, I can't think of *any* cocktails that are served neat. It seems odd for that to happen once, let alone twice. Was this two different bartenders at the same bar, or at different bars? If it was the same one, it might be worth it to try one more time and, should the same thing happen, ask to find out what exactly is going on there (not in a rude way, but maybe more of a "It's odd; this is the only place I've been to where they serve Old-Fashioneds like this. Is there a story behind that?")

        Also, an Old-Fashioned served up...this I must try for myself, just to see what difference, if any (other than aesthetic) it makes....

        8 Replies
        1. re: sanjacinto

          I can think of one cocktail served neat - Evergreen Dan's "Bernet Frankenstein" - but i doubt it is well-known outside of Chowhound and Dan's site (I've made it and it is quite interesting.)

          1. re: sanjacinto

            There is a whole class of room temperature cocktails out there, many of which are undiluted. The heat of spirits is either balanced by sugar content from liqueurs, low proof spirits like aperitif wines and sherries, etc. Some are 19th century or before and some are created currently. This would be the closest thing to neat, but I also assume that neat could have been a slang term for poured into a rocks glass.

            There are a few Old Fashioned-like drinks served stirred with ice and strained into a rocks glass. Here are two popular ones around here, but they are a lot less known that the standard Old Fashioned:
            • Sazerac (rye Old Fashioned with Peychaud's bitters as the bitters, in a glass rinsed with absinthe, lemon twist)
            • Toronto (rye Old Fashioned with Fernet Branca+Angostura as the bitters)


            1. re: yarm

              Yarm, I recall that there's actually a name for the room temp cocktails (beyond simply "room temperature cocktails" -- I think I learned it in the TDN chat). Do you happen to know what it is? I'm having trouble finding it via Google and would like to refresh my memory.

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                Not Yarm, but I did happen to recall that this type of drink is called a Scaffa.

                1. re: nickls

                  You've done a fine job as a substitute Yarm. Thanks!

                2. re: davis_sq_pro

                  Scaffa is only one type of room temperature cocktail. Some associate these with stirred but not chilled, others count them as layered drinks. Liquor, liqueur, syrups, and bitters.

                  There are Pousse-cafés that are layered. Same liquor, liqueur, syrups, and bitters, save for the Knickebein and other ones that contain an unbroken egg yolk.

                  I have had one room temperature Sour that appears in the Old Waldorf-Astoria Cocktail Book (the Pequot Sour) that had no chilling but it did have water for dilution.

                  There are also room temperature Slings, Punches, and Cocktails (most likely the first cocktails cerca 1800 lacked ice). So basically, it is more than just Scaffas. Scaffas just happen to be one of my favorite classes for regular consumption (Knickebeins for every once in a while, I need something strange consumption).

                  1. re: yarm

                    What's the point of stirring if there's no ice? Wouldn't a simple swirl in the glass be sufficient?

                    The Knickebein sounds cool and would be a great test of one's layering skills. (My own are virtually non-existent -- I'll stick with the scaffas.)

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      It's hard to swirl in a coupe or cocktail glass. Perhaps in a rocks glass. It does take a bit of effort to get different viscosity liquids to mix perfectly (liqueurs and syrups will sit on the bottom, spirits on the top); partial mixing will result in a messy Pousse-café gradient. Stirring with a spoon for a 5 count is usually plenty.

                      Layering drinks isn't that hard if you pour from a small vessel (like a 2 oz Oxo mixing cup) onto the back of a spoon (with the spoon's edge touching the side of the glass). Using the non-bowl end of the spoon (the handle) will work too if you drizzle the liquid down the curled shaft and put the end touching the glass. There are spoons like the Bonzer brand that have a disk at the end to make the layering in tall, narrow glasses easier. I believe there is a review of the Bonzer on the Cocktailvirgin site for this purpose (under *bar tools).

            2. Thanks for the feedback. Sounds like most agree that a proper Old Fashioned is served on the rocks. The Sazerac is an excellent cocktail that should be served strained (up, neat, down-in any case, no ice cubes in the glass). I was just wondering if some new cocktail guru had bartenders serving Old Fashioneds that way. I guess I'll start specifying "on the rocks" when ordering them, although that shouldn't be necessary.

              7 Replies
              1. re: PeterB

                Peter -- I suspect there is some miscommunication here on CH with your use of the term neat.

                Neat refers to an room-temperature beverage served without ice. Did you really mean that your old-fashioned was served room temp? This would be truly odd. I can imagine it being served down (chilled, strained, rocks glass, no ice -- Sazerac style), although that would be only somewhat less odd.

                Maybe I'll order my next cocktail "neat up" and see if I really get a room temp drink in a stemmed glass. Or maybe swizzled up (crushed ice swizzled in a stemmed cocktail glass). Oh wait, swizzled rolled up (crushed ice poured back and forth between two cocktail glasses).

                On second thought, I get in enough trouble without looking for it ;)

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                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  +1 on the clarification of terms.

                  1. re: Monch

                    BTW, I once had a "brain fart" and ordered my martini "neat" instead of "up".

                    The attentive bartender took a beat and served me a small tumbler of gin with vermouth.

                    "Be careful what you ask may receive it!"

                    1. re: Monch

                      Ordered a steak raw, as opposed to rare. Being about 13 at the time, old pig head ate it that way.

                      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        Drank my room-temperature "martini", paid, and quietly went to the table.

                        Have NOT repeated this error.

                        Indian River, I laughed out loud...we're kindred sprits.

                        1. re: Monch

                          A dry vermouth Martini room temperature is a vicious, stinging beast. One made with sweet vermouth can be decent when it warms up such as Audrey Saunder's Fifty-Fifty (equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, I believe with Orange Bitters).


                  2. re: EvergreenDan

                    Yes, I realize the error of my nomenclature. That was actually the term the bartender used who served me the iceless Old Fashioned. Both of the cocktails I experienced were served down. In any case it seems to be very nonstandard to me. I just think the Old Fashioned already had enough permutations (muddled fruit, soda water, etc.) and didn't need any additional ones. At the end of the day, I still expect an Old Fashioned to come in a proper glass (an Old Fashioned glass) on the rocks with orange peel and a maraschino cherry. Muddled fruit is optional and not in the ones I make.

                2. I think I found the culprit: Jamie Boudreau, purportedly "The World's Best Bartender". Whatever.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: PeterB

                    If your average hack bartender was a disciple of Boudreau, the world would not be a bad place. Actually, if your average hack bartender did reading of any sort about the trade, the world would be a better place. Often, they are trained by the person who had been there the longest and hadn't left to find a better job and whatever they were mistaught or not taught remains uncorrected.

                    His explanation mentions the historical lack of ice. And does talk about using a large ice cube, but for the OF variation he presents (not the historical one), he does indeed stir with ice and strain.

                    1. re: PeterB

                      Jamie is an excellent and knowledgeable bartender with a great background of researching and implementation. I have had his cocktails and hung out talking cocktails.

                    2. This is fascinating. As usual, when I jump in, it's rarely for just a quick note. I think this a truly interesting "anthromixological" discussion.

                      There are so many variants of the "Old Fashioned," some cocktail books don't even capialize it when referring to the cocktail family tree. As noted by Jamie (Boudreau that is) it appears this drink was probably "invented" before ice was popular--but then it was just called a cocktail, not an Old Fashioned. I suspect by the time it was "old fashioned" to drink a mix of sugar, bitters, water (maybe bubbling) and brown goods, I think the drink was usually made with ice. It surely was by the 30's where it appears in the Savoy Cocktail Book though we can see from Wondrich's notes on Jerry Thomas and ice in Imbibe, ice was "available" in the mid-1880's with only increasing frequency to follow. So even if this drink was originally served neat (as something probably called a cocktail), it was probably a result of the the circumstances and not necessarily the highest and best service possibilities. Even if you accept that tastes change and we may all be in love with ice for no good reason (other than its properties that help keep many thing from spoiling), it isn't ALWAYS best to go back to the way things were originally done.

                      Now, things get a little messy in the middle here and too be sure, I've glossed over a ton of information in regard to dates and such and when exactly things happened and the evolution of cocktails and bars and drinks and ice. But I think it is safe to say that since the end of prohibition, Old Fashioned's have been made with ice. It probably isn't a stretch to say they have been since the turn of the century. Earlier than that likely depended on what bar you were in an how much money you had to pay for a drink but ice may have ended up in this guy as early as the 1860's. We know that ice was beginning to be shipped around the world in the early 1800's and though that certainly doesn't mean it was all over the place, the timeline's could be accurate within 20-30 years. Yeah, I am leaving a wide birth here. Did you want this to go on for 8000 words?

                      I am not sure where soda comes in at first (I only have so much time today:)) or which decade decided cherries and/or oranges were appropriate and what happens to lemon peel when but the addition of ice, as far as I am concerned, happened long enough ago to be beyond the statute of limiations. Anybody serving down Old Fashioneds, regardless of your opinons of the other ingredients, should be telling you this is their variant. There is a long history of such and nothing to be ashamed of if your drink is good. But, if someone is out there claiming this is "original"....well I actually think it is better nearly every time in a tumbler filled to the brim with ice.

                      And yes, I don't mind a muddled orange in mine and almost aways prefer sparkling water. I can do without the cherry. Cheers.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: ellaystingray

                        I'm glad so many people replied with so many opinions. Also, I'm sure Jamie Boudreau really knows his stuff. it was just during decades of watching adults drinking them and subsequently drinking them myself they had *always* been served on the rocks. Then to get served Old Fashioneds iceless twice in a 2 month period I thought there was some new movement toward that way of serving them. It appears that it is not a general trend but something i may run into again if there are disciples of Jamie mixing. Now I'll probably get funny looks when I ask for them on the rocks.

                        1. re: PeterB

                          Dude, come to Wisconsin and order one!

                          Given my travels, you'll be in the geographical...if not of the Old Fashioned universe.

                          Cross-reference to the Madison supper club thread for my wife's "best Old Fashioned ever" location.

                          1. re: Monch

                            A brandy one topped with Sprite and garnished with a pickled mushroom? That might give PeterB fodder for his next post here... but at least it will most likely contain ice.

                            1. re: yarm

                              I don't believe that every cocktail should be served on the rocks. I do believe that Old Fashioneds should, though.

                              1. re: PeterB

                                Cocktail history is a fickle thing, so it's tough to ever speculate on there being a definitive truth here. In Boston, the best cocktail bars will serve a neat Old Fashioned -- it's a bit more elegant drink when stirred and strained, then garnished with orange peel or oil. The ice waters down the drink, which some may prefer (esp. if they want soda water too). If a customer wanted ice, I might try to talk them into a large cube rather than many small. Eastern Standard referred to it as a 19th Century (


                                The wikipedia entry lays it out accurately, suggesting ice and fruit are modifications:

                                However, to avoid strange looks, you can just order a "muddled old fashioned" which should always come on the rocks. Otherwise, muddled fruit floating in liquid ain't pretty!

                        2. re: ellaystingray

                          The muddled cherries and orange became popular in the mid 20th century. I was just talking about this with Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh over dinner a few nights ago. Up until around 1960 most of the recipes in books did not mention any fruit or garnish except for possibly a small piece of lemon peel or more rarely, orange peel muddled with the sugar, or just squeezed over the top of the drink.

                          As for ice, Tudor made ice big starting in 1836 with his first ship taking ice to the caribbean. By 1947 he was shipping all over the US to at least 28 major cities. By the time of his death in 1864 there were hundreds of companies selling ice all over the country and world. So it is safe to assume that by 1850-1860 if you ordered a cocktail, ice would have been used.

                          Since the Old Fashioned came to be called that in the 1880's, it always had ice. But since it was in many ways the first cocktail, you would have gotten something that was basically what came to be called the Old Fashioned, way before ice became universal.

                          1. re: JMF

                            Thank for filling in my gaps and going it much more concisely than I could have.