The Perfect Old Fashioned…

…Does not exist. It’s fiction. Fantasy. A flat out lie. Anyone who tries to sell you one, or convince you that they can produce one, is trying to hornswoggle you. Or, perhaps, it is better to simply agree that they all are perfect.

You see, an Old Fashioned is more an idea than an execution. This is what makes it my favorite cocktail to both make and enjoy elsewhere. To paraphrase the great 20th century philosopher Forrest Gump, it’s like life – you never know what you are going to get. Everywhere you order one it will be different. Sometimes only slightly, sometimes so drastically as to almost be considered another drink entirely.

There are no specific ingredients or hard measurements – only elements. These elements, combined with enough whimsy and panache to support the basic theory of what an Old Fashioned might be, consist of the following:

Spirits, Bitters, Water, and Sugar

That’s it. Any combination of the above may be called an Old Fashioned. Combine just about any of these and you can call it an Old Fashioned. In fact, it is long held that the very definition of what a cocktail is was derived from the description of these elements (see here: Old Fashioned – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

I recently ordered up an Old Fashioned at a hip and trendy restaurant here in town and here is what I got: Makers Mark Whiskey on top of raisins soaked in house made bitters and muddled at the bottom of the glass. Splash of tonic and diced apples for garnish.

It was an interesting take to be sure. That said, it was no more or less an Old Fashioned than the ones I make. All the ingredients were there. It was, therefore, perfect.

Now, I’ll describe how I make a perfect Old Fashioned. Try a couple; you’ll either agree with me or not care.

  1. Grab a lo-ball glass, the unofficial official glass of the Old Fashioned. Its flat, wide bottom and straight sides make it the ideal palette for the artistry about to be performed.

  2. Throw a couple of teaspoons of sugar in there. Nothing fancy. Just plain white sugar.

  3. Sprinkle in some bitters in there. I use Angostura but any will do. You want enough to add flavor to the muddle (see below) but not so much that it begins the muddle without the next step.

  4. Grab an orange. This will both stand in for water and be garnish. Cut an end off of the orange and squeeze just enough juice into the sugar and bitters so that you can muddle these together with a spoon. The resulting concoction should resemble quicksand. Thick, but not too thick. Runny, but not too runny.

  5. Throw a few cubes of ice in the glass. How many depends on how strong you ultimately want your drink. Just a few if you like it nice and strong. Fill it up if you are a lightweight.

  6. Now, grab some whiskey. Any whiskey is good whiskey. But don’t use stuff that is too good. That stuff is for drinking straight. Anything else will be just fine. Cheap blended Canadian? Great! Expensive craft distilled Rye? Great! Just make sure it is whiskey. Not Brandy. Never Brandy… Pour the Whiskey in the glass, about a finger from the top.

  7. Cut off a slice of the orange and throw it in the glass on top. Also put some Maraschino cherries in there, two or three. Use a spoon so you get some of the cherry syrup in with those too.

  8. Mix carefully. You want to combine all of these flavors without spilling a single drop over the lip of the glass. Such waste of anything this amazing is a crime and sin.

There you have it, Drink one of these regularly and you can tackle (or forget) almost any problem you might face.

Of course, what I describe above is nothing more than my take on it. Adjust it, change it, no matter. As long as the four elements are there, you will have made the best Old Fashioned you have ever had. Until the next one.

This was originally written for a far past issue of the Read & Trust Newsletter (now Magazine). I thought encouragement to enjoy a nice drink on a Sunday was reason enough to share it here.

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