Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktail with an orange twist for garnish

Drop a two inch ice cube into an un-chilled rocks glass. Add the bitters and the bourbon. Add the syrup and stir briefly. Bend the orange twist to express the oils into the glass, then rub it around the rim of the glass and add it to the drink. (Dave Arnold: "Liquid Intelligence.")

This is where it all started. The word 'cocktail' appeared in a New York newspaper in 1806. In response to a reader's letter enquiring about the meaning of the word, the editor responded with a definition: "Cock tail, then, is a stimulating liquor, compsed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters…"

Over the following decades ice became more readily available replacing the water. Move on a few more decades and all manner of fancy liqueurs, vermouths, fruit juice and syrups are being added so that the word cocktail takes on its modern meaning of mixed drink. By the 1870s, not everyone was on board with this modern concoction and one can imagine a purist asking the bartender for an old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail. The phrase itself, old-fashioned cocktail, first shows up in an article in the Chicago Tribune in 1880.

Recipes from the late 1800s would have you dissolve a lump of sugar in a little water and use a lemon twist. I rather like the recipe above from Dave Arnold using simple syrup and an orange twist. The result is surprisingly different from simply sipping a glass of cold neat bourbon.