An Old Fashioned is just that – a big boy brown drink of whiskey, sugar and bitters, served muddled or stirred. It has its own glass and a cameo in every movie set in the 50s and 60s. Modern mixologists are putting their stamp on the cocktail by changing the base spirit and adding flavored bitters and syrups. At Red Fish Grill in New Orleans, pastry chef Brett Gauthier makes candied oranges for the garnish, and bartender Thomas Register creates seasonal simple syrups, such as allspice, cinnamon and clove. At Canon in Seattle, the Truffled Old Fashioned — made with truffle-infused cognac and vanilla-muscovado syrup – is a limited-edition annual event. DC has several unique versions: Adam Bernbach at 2 birds 1 stone adds fernet to the rye in his King Cole, and Vinoteca mixologist Horus Alvarez swaps in tequila for his Old Fashionista, then adds another flavor layer with housemade pumpkin cordial.
In Wisconsin, brandy takes a turn for whiskey. “It goes back to fruit being so plentiful here in the summertime, especially during Prohibition,” explained Jennifer De Bolt, GM of the Old Fashioned in Madison. Her classic recipe is a brown sugar cube muddled with several long dashes of Angostura bitters and orange. Add ice and brandy and the cocktail can be finished with Sprite for a sweet version and sour mix for a sour presentation. Guests at the Old Fashioned can also build their own namesake, with a variety of booze, flavored bitters and garnishes — including spicy pickled eggs. Duane Sylvestre, co-head bartender at DC’s Bourbon Steak pours his twist on the classic using orange and cherry liqueurs to achieve the sweet flavors of the muddled version in a built drink. There’s no need for added sugar or “muck” in this glass, Sylvestre explains about his Auld Land Syne cocktail.
Auld Lang Syne
- 1.5oz Jim Beam rye
- 3/4oz Maurin Quina — a cherry liqueur
- 1/2 oz Cointreau
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- Stir in a glass
- Garnish with a big lemon twist.
At 1919 , a pop-up speakeasy tucked away inside the already cozy Mulberry Project in NYC, bartender Sam Ziar is serving classic and original drinks by reservation only. His Old Fashioned recipe includes floral vanilla and added sweetness to make this normally stiff drink “a little more approachable.”
- 1 Sugar cube
- 2 oz of George Dickle #12
- 2×2 ice cube
- Orange peel, garnish
- Vanilla Syrup
- Allspice dram
- Drench sugar cube in vanilla syrup and allspice dram
- Add 2 oz of George Dickle #12
- Add large 2×2 ice cube
- Serve with a large orange peel in an Old Fashioned Glass
At 312 Chicago bartender Dan Andruss barrel ages his Old Fashioneds in batches and serves them using the “igloo cooler” method with hand-carved ice. Andruss says the process highlights the drink’s “wonderfully smooth oaky notes.”
Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Recipe (makes about 30 cocktails)
- 65 oz St. George Breaking and Entering Bourbon / per drink: 2 ¼ oz
- 21.5 oz Luxardo Maraschino / per drink: ¾ oz
- 21 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters / per drink: 1 dash
- 15 dashes Orange Bitters / per drink: 1 dash
- Combine and age in gallon barrels of any kind.
DC Coast beverage director Scott Clime pays homage to the Washington’s spring cherry blossoms with the District Cherry Old Fashioned, featuring Cherry Bitters and housemade Cherry Blossom Tea Simple Syrup.
District Cherry Old Fashioned
- Orange peel
- 3 dashes Fee Brothers Cherry Bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1/4 ounces Cherry Blossom Tea simple syrup
- 2 ounces Few Rye Whiskey
- Splash Club Soda
- 2 Maraschino Cherries
- In a rocks glass, muddle one fresh orange peel with all bitters.
- Add cherry blossom tea simple syrup and 2 ounces of Few Rye Whiskey.
- Fill the glass with ice and top with a splash of club soda.
- Stir and garnish with two skewered maraschino cherries.
Cherry Blossom Tea Simple Syrup Ingredients
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 Cherry Blossom Tea Bags
- Simmer water and sugar over medium-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Turn off heat, add tea bags and let mixture cool.
- Use or store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
- Strain when ready for use.