The Old Fashioned Cocktail Gets a Make-Under

Categories: Beverages, Booze

Photos by John Kiely
Despite the name, this drink is popular in the present.

I am elated to be living in the golden age of adult beverages. I can easily find a dozen places in Houston that serve considerably better coffee, beer or cocktails than the drinks available to my parents and grandparents, or I can visit Patrick Storfer at the Spec's Liquors on Weslayan and get a stellar bottle of wine for a price that's not astronomical.

However, there's one cocktail that's not better than it used to be, and that's the appropriately named Old Fashioned. It was originally a simple drink, made of whiskey, sugar, Angostura bitters and ice, but over the years the cocktail has become new-fashioned with some add-ons that perhaps don't ruin the flavor but can detract from the cocktail's greatness.

Making the original drink is extremely easy and ritualistic. Simply place a teaspoon of white sugar, or a sugar cube, in the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass, dash in a few squirts from a bottle of Angostura bitters and add a splash of water or club soda to help dissolve the sugar as you stir. Then, pour in 1½ to 2 ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey, and drop in a few ice cubes. One taste, and you'll know why there's a resurgence in the popularity of the Old Fashioned.

Unfortunately, many modern recipes insist that you muddle an orange slice and a maraschino cherry with the sugar and bitters. It's not the worst thing you can do. In fact, one lover of the drink, engineer Ivan Battle, told me the fruit was the reason he became a bourbon aficionado. "I hated whiskey when I first drank it. But my dad made me an Old-Fashioned with the smashed-up cherry and orange slice. It tasted a little like whiskey fruit punch, but I got hooked. After a while, I stopped muddling the fruit, and eventually left it out altogether."

This story continues on the next page.

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