Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:
Are you sure that is the "original" recipe?
Sinclair (2nd May, 2003)
Fashioned”, as it is more commonly known, is the perfect cocktail,
not just from a flavour point of view, but also from other aspects. It
has all the criteria for judging the proficiency of a bartender, in their
bartending abilities, and their dedication to the cause. The cause, to
which I am referring, is that of historical accuracy, and how a bartender
sees what they are doing in this wider perspective.
properly made, this cocktail [the old fashioned] can represent the pinnacle
of the bartenders trade. When done improperly, which is more often the
case, it can be a disaster of mediocrity.”
Robert Hess, Drinkboy.com
It is, all
too often, taken for granted that the cocktail recipe that one was initially
taught is the indisputably original, correct, authentic recipe. This way
of thinking is based on the incorrect assumption that the teacher, who
taught you, will have been shown the correct recipe to begin with. The
best way to avoid perpetuating mistakes, and so-called “improvements”,
is to delve a little, into the past. Historical Investigation can, even
when just looking at the two words, cause people’s eyes to glaze
over. “I am a bartender, not an historian!” goes the cry.
That may be so in most cases, but to make drinks and call them “the
original recipe”, “the authentic recipe” etc is to proclaim
something else entirely. A bartender, or a well printed bar book, which
proclaims historical accuracy invokes scrutiny upon itself.
If a bartender
proclaims neither historical accuracy, nor divine assistance, then they
are making drinks to their own preferences, whether they be personal or
commercial. No false claims will have been asserted, and so none will
need to be defended from curious minds, asking politely for some form
drinks I make are delicious” is a subjective assertion, and the
individual’s taste buds are the judging panel.
drinks I make are the originals” is an objective assertion, and
will need to be proven historically.
can be changed, and then said by its deviator to taste “better”.
But no recipe can be referred to as the “original”, unless
that is indeed the case. Referring to a recipe, as “the earliest
known” is entirely truthful, as it leaves the door open for any
earlier recipes to be discovered, thus saving oneself from potential embarrassment.
not have noticed it before, but take a closer look at those bar books,
and stolen bar menus, note their spurious claims.
aware that I am not saying that original recipes are the only recipes
to be used, nor am I saying that they are the better recipes.
I now return
back to the “Old Fashioned” cocktail, being as it is the pretence
for this diatribe on “bar-honesty”, and point out some falsities
that need highlighting.
known reference to fruit being muddled in an Old Fashioned is from:
Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes”, by Harman Burney
Sugar, 1 Lump
Angostura Bitters, 2 Dashes
Curacao or Absinthe, 2 Dashes
one Slice of Orange, one Slice of Lemon Peel, mull with the Bitters and
Sugar, then add the Whiskey and serve in the same glass.
Prohibition lasted from 1920 until 1933. During this time sub-standard
spirits were often bolstered with fresh fruits, in an attempt to hide
their less than satisfactory taste.
I am on the topic of fruit and the Old Fashioned:
Guide and Ladies’ Companion”, by Crosby Gaige, (1941)
persons omit fruit salad from “Old Fashioneds,” while the
frivolous window-dress the brew with slices of orange, sticks of pineapple,
and a couple of turnips.”
also relates the response he received from a bartender, when he was foolhardy
enough to request an Old Fashioned made without fruit:
impudent sir,' he screamed, '...Man and boy I've built Old-Fashioned cocktails
these 60 years...and I have never yet had the perverted nastiness of mind
to put fruit in an Old-Fashioned. Get out, scram, go over to the Palmer
House and drink.' I was rebuked."
one of my all-time favourite quotes, regardless of topic. Such indignation
is hard to come by.
known reference to the “Colonel Pepper story”, the much-repeated
yarn of the Old Fashioned’s creation is from 1931.
Waldorf Bar Days” by Albert Stevens Crockett (1931)
was brought to the old Waldorf in the days of its “sit-down”
Bar, and introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper, of Kentucky,
proprietor of a celebrated whiskey of the period. The Old-fashioned Whiskey
cocktail was said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous
Pendennis Club in Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member.
of writing has a very “just mentioning what I heard” approach,
giving the impression that the author is just repeating a rumour they
chanced upon. How exactly did every other cocktail book author miss this
story, or think it unworthy of mention, until 1931?
Pendennis Club was founded in 1881, and the “sit-down” bar
was opened in 1893.
By George J. Kappeler
Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:
a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two
dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger
whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass."
Fashioned is exactly what it’s first known recipe states, “Old
Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail”. A Whisky cocktail made in the old fashioned
reference to a cocktail is dated 1806, from an American Magazine called
is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water,
and bitters - it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to
be an excellent electioneering potion"
definition of a cocktail is exactly that of an Old Fashioned, albeit the
water coming in the form of ice. Obviously there must have been a time
when the Old Fashioned was new, and therefore referred to simply as a
to Mix Drinks”, by Jerry
(Use small bar glass.)
4 dashes of gum syrup.
2 do. Bitters (Bogart’s)
1 wine-glass of whiskey, and a piece of lemon peel.
Fill one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy red wine-glass.
of Thomas', is better designated
as a precursor to the fully fledged "Old Fashioned", rather
than actually being an "Old Fashioned" itself. The
sugar comes in the liquid form of gum syrup (sirop de gomme), and the
water is constituent in the fine ice. As the precursor to the
"Old Fashioned", the listed recipe dispells many bartenders
'convictions' towards sugar syrup, and the shaking of clear spirits. If
it was good once, then it can be good again. The most interesting difference,
for me, is that Thomas prepares his "Whiskey Cocktail" in a
separate container before pouring the libation into its serving glass.
Re-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail (2002).
shots of Bourbon Whisky,
¼- ½ shot of Sugar Syrup,
2 dashes of Bitters,
with ice, then strain into an ice filled whisky glass (keep the glass
and ice in the freezer); then garnish with an orange twist.
a few published bartenders who claim that they are using original, authentic
“Old Fashioned” recipes, but are in fact using their own preferences,
and then portraying them falsely.
are lacking in “bar-honesty”, which, I feel, is directly related
to personal integrity and, dare I say, intelligence.
these false claims, these persons are just like any other bartender, making
their own cocktails, to their own specific preferences. They wish to be
associated with an historical tradition, as this, for them, is a desirable
accolade to attain; yet they are clearly wanting in this department.