Old Fashioned

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The Old Fashioned is, as its name suggests, one of the oldest cocktails. The name is short for "Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail", and it, like the Sazerac, is a true cocktail in the original sense of the term: a drink consisting of a spirit (whiskey in this case), bitters, sugar, and a splash of water to dissolve the sugar.

There's a dubious legend that the Old Fashioned was invented at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky (see below). It is more likely that the term came from customers insisting that their whiskey cocktails be made the "old fashioned" way.

Over the decades since the era of the Whiskey Cocktail, the Old Fashioned has evolved into forms that would be almost unrecognizable to 19th century bibbers. Innovations, for better or worse, include the substitution of orange for the original lemon, the practice of muddling the fruit, the practice of muddling a maraschino cherry along with the fruit, the addition of maraschino cherry juice, topping up the drink with club soda, and topping up the drink with 7-Up or Sprite. Purists may regard many of these innovations with disdain.


Precursor to the Old Fashioned: the Whiskey Cocktail

Jerry Thomas (1862)

Whiskey Cocktail

  • (Use small bar-glass.)
  • Take 3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup.
  • 2 dashes of bitters (Boker's).
  • 1 wine-glass of whiskey.

Fill one-third full of fine ice ; shake and strain in a fancy red wine-glass. Put in a piece of twisted lemon peel in the glass and serve.

According to David Herpin

Sporting Magazine: Or, Monthly Calendar of the Transactions of ..., Volume 24 page 185

It was not intended that I should have the honour of winning the Steeple Chase as well as the Royal Cups, for I was put on an old- fashioned cocktail of Count Basse- wit/.'s, who had no pretensions of this sort.

The Clothier and Furnisher - Volume 19 - Page 51

We were invited to dinner with an old fashioned whisky cocktail.

The Old-Fashioned Myth

Old Waldorf Bar Days by Albert Stevens Crockett (1931)

This 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.

Many believe because of Chris Mcmillan that the old fashioned was simply a cocktail ordered in the "old fadshioned" way, I love this theory myself, however, i'm more inclined to follow David Herpins theory of it being named after the racing mare fashion, the time frame is too perfect.

David Wondrich says "Busted"

"Since the Chicago Daily Tribune was already discussing "old fashioned cocktails" in February of 1880 and the Pendennis Club wasn't founded until 1881, I think it's safe to pronounce this myth busted."

The irony here is the feb 1880 printing you claim exist, does not and currently is being removed from wikipedia via reliable sources noticeboard, the paper can not be traced and there is not evidence it even exist, the new york times nor the chicago daily tribune agree with you wondrich, I guess you are the one who is busted, however, I agree that the pendennis club is not responsible for it either.

According to David Herpin the old fashioned was named after "fashion" a southern racing mare who was popular during the mid 19th century. Fashion won several races against the north just prior to the civil war and this would also explain the drinks popularity in the south over its popularity in the north.

Earliest Recipe

Modern American Drinks by George J. Kappeler (1895)

The Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail:

"Dissolve 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."

First occurence of Muddling Fruit in an Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Burke's Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes by Harman Burney Burke (1936)

Old Fashioned Cocktail

  • Whiskey, 1 Glass
  • Sugar, 1 Lump
  • Angostura Bitters, 2 Dashes
  • Curacao or Absinthe, 2 Dashes

Add 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.

Common Recipes

Dick Bradsell's Recipe.

Note: This is the Recipe/ Method that most bartenders in London, England use. It is a variation on the "Old Fashioned De-Luxe" by David Embury (see below).

  • Ingredients:
  • 50ml Bourbon
  • 10ml sugar syrup
  • 2 dash angostura bitters

Glass: Rocks


  • In a glass put sugar & angostura.
  • Add an ice cube and stir.
  • 2 ice cubes and stir
  • Add 25 mls bourbon and stir
  • 2 ice cubes and stir
  • Add 25 mls bourbon and stir
  • 2 ice cubes and stir

Garnish: Orange twist


"Pour into each glass 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls simple syrup and add 1 to 3 dashes Angostura. Stir with a spoon to blend the bitters with the syrup. Add about 1 oz. whisky and stir again. Add 2 large cubes of ice, cracked but not crushed (see page 100). Fill glass to within about 3/8" of top with whisky and stir again. Add a twist of lemon and drop peel in the glass. Decorate with a maraschino cherry on a spear. Serve with short stir rod or Old-Fashioned spoon."

Good Old-Fashioned Quotes

"When 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

Cocktail Guide and Ladies' Companion by Crosby Gaige, (1941)

"Serious-minded 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.

'Young 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."

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