How to make an Old Fashioned Cocktail at Home:
There is so much attention on the different recipes behind this cocktail. But when making cocktails, Old Fashioned included, at home, we find the principles of sticking to the absolute basics, is always the correct way to go.
-50ml Bourbon, or Whisky. Whatever is to hand.
-Half a teaspoon of Sugar, Brown is best, but again, whatever you have works.
-Dash of Angostura Bitters (this stuff keeps for YEARS & is a great staple to any cupboard)
-Piece of Orange Peel (for zesting, extracting the oil from the skin)
This is it. You have enough to create the bare bones of the Old Fashioned Cocktail.
There are so many variations, accentuations & spin offs of this cocktail recipe. We shall cover a few of these later.
The method of this drink, is to muddle the bitters with the sugar together, add the liquid ingredients & stir until dilution & temperature is reached. No need to complicate it.
Is there a difference between using Whisky Or Bourbon in my Old Fashioned?
The simple answer is another question, what do you like?
For those of you that would answer “Im not sure” Both products are whisky, just to de-bunk that myth immediately & remove any form of complication, they are the same product, just made in different ways.
Whisky is created from Barley, grain or Malt. Its usually 100% of this, it can be blended, but if it is blended, the blend is always compiled from these 3 ingredients.
Bourbon however, must be at least 51% made up of Maize, which to us British folk. Is just Corn. They then make up the other 49% with the normal 3 ingredients for whisky. It simply offers a slightly different flavour profile. I.e Sweeter.
With making a good Old Fashioned Cocktail though, you are adding sweetness to it. Therefore, in my own personal outlook on this drink, the second you add an additional element of sweetness, it no longer matters whether you used Whisky, or Bourbon. So to me & most cocktail bartenders like us, that you would hire to come do cocktail making at your home events. Whisky, or Bourbon, you’re going to get the same end product. So go with what your gut tells you in the supermarket aisle, or browsing the whiskies & Bourbons in amazon.
What is Angostura Bitters & why do I need it in my Old Fashioned?
The use of angostura bitters was originally medicinal, to treat digestive problems. This carried over to being used with soda water, to treat sailors with upset stomachs. Later gin was added, which is of course, where Angostura in what would later become known as cocktails. First got its usage. Of course it is more famed for its use in Old Fashioned, but it has other purpose.
It is created through repeated cooking, straining & infusing processes over a period of 20+ days, the ingredients for different bitters varies on which bitters you buy, or even make, as many Mixologists now are creating their own infusions for this product.
The Sugar must be brown & in a Cube for Old Fashioned?
A Myth. This is much the early days of what you would see in any cocktail bar now that likes to involve theatrics. The Mixologist Cocktail Makers who would smoke their drinks nowadays in a Cloche & reveal a cloud, with your drink sitting there as the smoke clears. The Sugar cube is merely an early days equivalent of such, to create an immersive experience in the creation of your cocktail.
Pouring a bitters dash onto the cube, discolouring it, then watching it break down before any other liquid is added to the glass. Is merely an experience factor, rather than anything that adds or takes away from the drink.
As for the ongoing argument for decades about Brown or White sugar. Though this is probably an answer considered rude to give, it is also an eye opening one. But as a Cocktail Bartender, it does silence the argument & allow you to get on with your job for the remainder of the evening & save any guests from waiting for their drinks. Said response is “If you can tell me the difference, besides the colour, between white & brown sugar, ill go find the one you’re asking for” Still to this day, after 23 years of bartending & making cocktails, not one single person has answered this question.
Now being what I did before mention, it may be taken as rude or offensive to give such a response. This response will only be given, when I simply do not have time to have these kinds of discussions with guests. Being for example, a client wedding event, the bartenders are now making the reception drinks for the wedding, They need to make in excess of 200 drinks in less than 15 minutes. These kinds of conversations cannot take place at these times.
But when I have the time to chat to guests, I do love giving out this information, people really do feel enriched by it.
Brown & white sugar, is grown from the same plant. Therefore, it is the same product. The difference is nutrients. Brown sugar simply, has more of them. They are known as Molasses, which is what gives it the brown colourisation. Molasses are made up of slightly higher levels of Potassium, Calcium & Iron.
Brown sugar is also Marginally & we REALLY mean the term marginally less calories than white sugar. So ultimately, it makes zero difference to your drink taste. It is a matter of perception.
What is the orange peel for in an old fashioned?
Essentially, the peel contains oils, orange oils, they are in fact extremely rich in flavour & elevate a drink greatly.
By cutting the rind away from the orange. Your peel cannot contain any juicy parts or body of the orange, we are not after all, adding orange juice to this drink, only the oils. As you squeeze the rind, with the Orange colour side facing the glass, if you look closely, you’d see a spray of oils come out. This adds to the drink, although microscopic amounts, a vast amount.
It is also common & in many cases, supported, to set this oil coming out, on fire. By holding a flame on the colour side & squeezing the oil through the flame. You’ll get a very small, yet intense burst of flame. (think a miniaturised version of the old deodorant flamethrower trick we all tried at least once in our teenage years) This can add a very intense flavour profile of smoke & bitter to the drink, if the Angostura isn’t quite doing it for you & you’d like to add some more depth to the orange profile.
Variations to the Old Fashioned:
This cocktail although we have explained its bare bones, can of course be made more complex. Or changed, or just interpreted in a different manner.
The most recognised version of this different interpretation would be:
The Manhattan Cocktail:
Fundamentally & with the concept of the above recipe, if this drink is stripped to its bare bones. It is an extremely similar recipe, just a different interpretation.
It contains sugars (albeit achieved from a Cherry)
It contains Bitters, Orange.
Its only difference, is literally a drop. We really mean a drop, of vermouth. A Fortified & spiced wine.
– 5ml & discard Sweet Vermouth.
– 50ml Whisky or Bourbon
– Dash Angostura Bitters
- A Glaced or soaked cherry
- Orange Zest / Peel
Instead of muddling & getting brutal with this drink, everything here is poured into a chilled cocktail tin, with plenty of ice. Stirred until the correct dilution & temperature is reached, then strained into a Martini glass.
Because of the Manhattan Cocktail, this is where the Garnish or use of a Cherry became involved in the Old Fashioned in some interpretations. This is simply a matter of interpretation & not a right or wrong answer as to whether or not it goes into the drink. Further blurring the lines between a Manhattan Cocktail & an Old Fashioned cocktail, down to quite simpy, the use of a single trace of Sweet Vermouth or not.
Bentons Old Fashioned:
Rather than explaining the recipe of an Old Fashioned all over again, a Cocktail Bartender in PDT, a renowned bar in New York. Added just a touch of Bacon Fat to this existing recipe. Not alot, only a slight touch. Then replaced the Sugar with Maple Syrup. Creating a new depth on this simple cocktail.
Rum Old Fashioned:
Again, like the original Old Fashioned, instead of re-writing the recipe & giving you too much information to take in. The simple difference here with this drink is exactly what is explained in the title.
A Rum Old Fashioned, simply swaps out the Whisky & replaces it with Rum. All the other ingredients are exactly the same.
Smoked Old Fashioned:
This becomes a little more tricky to recreate in the home. It involves equipment in which smoke needs to get into the drink & as most of us won’t have outdoor smokers to hand, especially not to place a drink you’ve just made with Ice into, alternative methods must be used.
Firstly & the method I use. Is a smoking gun. Not in the style in which someone would catch a barrel of a rifle after being shot in a movie. But there is a device in which smoking wood chips can be placed, then a fan blow a very reduced amount of said wood chips down a hose in order to concentrate the smoke into a small & controlled area, like a food bowl, or in this case, a single glass.
The other is using a fairly new product to markets. Liquid Smoke, I have not had much dealings with this product, in fact, only 2 evenings work with it. But I learned very quickly, you only use this product extremely sparingly, it is super strong.