The perfect Old Fashioned can be an elusive thing to find in your local corner bar, and even in some of the most upscale establishments in the country. It’s not as simple as pouring some bourbon and sugar in a glass with an orange slice. But people often treat it that way. So, how DO you craft the perfect Old Fashioned?
First and foremost, to craft the perfect Old Fashioned, you must start with the highest quality ingredients. It’s a relatively simple cocktail that involves only five ingredients: whiskey, bitters, sugar, ice (preferably made from mineral water) and an orange. Follow this recipe on your way to perfection!
- Whiskey. Depending on your preferred flavor profile, you might choose Bourbon or whiskey. Whiskey tends to have a sharper edge than bourbon and is a little less sweet. With Bourbon, the Mash Bill will make a difference. You might choose a rye, which tends to be spicier, or one with more wheat, which makes it more mellow. This is definitely a matter of personal preference.
- Bitters. Although there are tons of flavored bitters on the market now, Angostura is the traditional and best bitters to use when making an Old Fashioned. It is crafted from herbs and spices in Trinidad and Tobago, where it originated in the town of Angostura.
- Sugar. Since we’re going for high quality, choose a demerara sugar cube. Although brown in color, this is not brown sugar. It is simply unbleached, raw cane sugar that has a richer flavor than traditional white sugar.
- Ice. Ice that is made from mineral water is ideal, which is why the bourbon industry has been so successful in the state of Kentucky. The natural limestone in the springs and rivers filters the iron out of the water, making it smoother and a touch sweeter. This helps release the flavors in the bourbon.
- An Orange. You’re technically only going to need the peel, but you’ll still need a whole fresh orange for that.
Crafting the Perfect Old Fashioned:
- Start with a whiskey glass and place one demerara sugar cube in the bottom.
- Saturate the sugar cube with Angostura bitters. Approximately 5 dashes of bitters should do the trick.
- With a muddler, break down the sugar cube and crush it into the bitters, creating a slurry of sugar and bitters. Scoop the muddler around the bottom and inside edges of the glass to make sure that all the sugar is crushed into the liquid.
- Add 2 ounces of your preferred bourbon or whiskey.
- Stir for about 15 seconds.
- Add ice. If you have large whiskey cubes available to you, only place one in the glass. If you have smaller ice cubes, add 3-5 cubes.
- Stir the cocktail for about 15-20 seconds to begin the process of dilution, but not too much.
- With a peeler, scrape off a piece of the orange peel that is about an inch wide.
- Twist it over the cocktail like you’re wringing out a washcloth. The orange has some natural oils in the peel and we want them in the drink.
- Take the orange peel and rub it around the outside of lip of the glass. This will rub the oils onto the glass, as well, so you get a taste of the oil with each sip.
- Garnish the drink by placing the orange peel upright in the glass between the ice cube and the glass.
- Serve and enjoy!
The secret to crafting the perfect Old Fashioned is not only in the ingredients, but also how you serve it. When stirring the ice into the drink, you want to allow it to dilute just a tad, but not to the point where the cocktail is perfect. You want to save that experience for when you have the drink in your hand.
Basically, an Old Fashioned has a bell curve of perfection. When you serve it, the cocktail should be slightly too strong and not yet sweet enough, because you did not overly dilute it. As the ice begins to melt, more sugar will be incorporated into the flavor and the whiskey will soften just slightly.
The idea of serving it just before perfection allows you to have (or serve) a drink that tastes better for longer.
How You Serve It Speaks Volumes About You
Serving an Old Fashioned improperly is like pouring white wine into a red wine glass, or wearing white after Labor Day! Just. Don’t.
If you’re going to go through the process of crafting the perfect Old Fashioned, you might as well serve it in style. Choose a whiskey glass that reflects who you are. (Nothing kills the excitement of an excellent cocktail like serving it in a coffee cup.)
Since whiskey-drinking is a cultural experience, we think you deserve to splurge on your barware. The right presentation reflects your belief that drinking whiskey is about more than just the spirit itself. Some of the key things to look for in a whiskey glass are appearance, drinkability (function), and nose.
You want a glass that will feel and look good in your hand. You also want it to be functionally sound. All too often, manufacturers design really cool glasses that are a pain to drink from. Last but not least, choose a glass with a wide enough mouth to allow the spirit to breathe.
The Old Fashioned is a cocktail that cannot (and should not) be crafted with low-quality ingredients that compromise the flavor of the drink. This is a cocktail that dates back to the 1800s. It has withstood the test of time. As the years have passed, the drink has evolved into something that is enjoyed by people all over the country. It may be old fashioned, but it never goes out of style.
What’s your favorite spirit to include in your Old Fashioned?