Take a Sip of History with an Old Fashioned

If there is one standard cocktail that every bartender knows how to mix, it is the Old Fashioned. An Old Fashioned is a whiskey cocktail classic, but it actually has its origin as a gin-based drink. Its name is likely inspired by people asking for their cocktail to be mixed “the old-fashioned way.” Find out what you need to know about this bar staple and how it came to find its way into nearly every bartender’s repertoire.

Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail

The roots of the Old Fashioned can be traced back to an 1862 book called Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide. This book contains a recipe for an Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail. In this recipe, a lump of sugar was crushed into a small amount of water in the bottom of a whiskey glass. A lump of ice and two dashes of Angostura bitters were then added and topped up with a jigger of Holland gin and a lemon peel. This drink is very similar today’s Old Fashioned, despite being made with gin instead of whiskey.

The Pendennis Club

Louisville, Kentucky’s Pendennis Club claims the credit for inventing today’s incarnation of the Old Fashioned. There, bartender James E. Pepper created the recipe for the private social club. As Pepper’s family was in the bourbon business, he replaced the gin in the original recipe with bourbon. Although any whiskey can be used in an Old Fashioned, bourbon is the most traditional choice. Pepper eventually brought his recipe to NYC’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. By 1895, Pepper’s version of the recipe appeared in the pages of George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks.

New York Times Appearance

In 1936, the New York Times published a recipe for an Old Fashioned. The recipe mirrored Pepper’s take on the drink, with a lump of sugar, bitters, and ice, but it leaves off the lemon peel and makes a recommendation that bartenders were not quick to embrace: let the customers add their own bourbon. Today’s Old Fashioned cocktails follow this basic recipe, but the drink is typically served with an orange slice and a cherry.

Talk to your Professional Bartenders Unlimited team about adding this classic drink to your party menu. For more information about hiring a bartender in Tucson, call (520) 721-1577.