Sadly neglected these days, the Old-Fashioned is the ur-cocktail. Originally — in 1806, at least, which is good enough for us — a “cock tail” was a morning drink (ah, America!) made up of a little water, a little sugar, a lot of liquor, and a couple splashes of bitters. Freeze the water, make it with whiskey, and you have an Old-Fashioned. And a mighty fine drink it is: strong, square-jawed, with just enough civilization to keep you from hollerin’ like a mountain-jack.
- 1 Sugar Cube
- 3 Angostura Bitters
- 1 L Club Soda
- 2 oz. Rye Whiskey
- 1 old-fashioned glass
- Place the sugar cube (or 1/2 teaspoon loose sugar) in an Old-Fashioned glass
- Wet it down with 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and a short splash of water or club soda
- Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, chopstick, strong spoon, lipstick, cartridge case, whatever
- Rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining
- Add a large ice cube
- Pour in the rye (or bourbon)
- Serve with a stirring rod
The Wondrich Take:
The now customary fruit garnish — all those orange slices, cherries, pineapple sticks and whatnot — is, according to Jack Townsend, former head of the Bartenders Union of New York, Local 15, A.F.L., an example of the indignities that so many American cocktails had visited upon them under Prohibition. Anything to hide the taste of the liquor. A special no-no is the common practice of muddling the fruit with the sugar before pouring in the hooch. This turns a noble drink into a sickly, sweet, gooey mess.
Finally, the great debate: rye or bourbon? North or South, East or West, Kentucky Colonel or New York Knickerbocker? Since you can make a fine-tasting drink by subjecting almost any of the manly liquors — brandy, rum, gin, Irish whiskey (but not Scotch, which is too manly) — to this process, it doesn’t really matter. But we like rye, if we can find it, or Canadian Club, if we can’t. (CC has a lot of rye in it.) Cheap bourbon’s already sweet enough, and good bourbon doesn’t need any help going down.