Crushed sugar cubes and orange rind with bourbon, bitters, and a cherry on top show why the Old Fashioned is an irresistible original cocktail.
The original mid century cocktail
No list of mid century cocktails is complete without the Old Fashioned. It has been said that this drink is what all cocktails are based on. My bartender refers to it as the original cocktail. It was Don Draper’s drink of choice on that television show and after trying one, you’ll be ‘mad’ you haven’t been drinking them all along.
This drink supposedly originated in Louisville, Kentucky at the famous Pendennis gentlemen’s club which was founded in the late 1800’s. However, some similar recipes had been kicking around since the early 1800’s. Nancy's great-grandfather is credited as a bartender who may have been the inventor, but that’s a story for another time.
Like many whiskey-based cocktails, there are plenty of variations between bourbon and rye. And sure, for a while folks in the U.S. used a lot of blended Canadian whiskey because that was all they could get during Prohibition. Today we are blessed with amazing selections of sweet bourbons and spicy ryes. Do yourself a favor and try it out both ways and see what you like. As I’ve noted before, I can appreciate the drinks made with rye, but I’m still more of a bourbon guy.
What you'll need
Some people may feel this cocktail is complicated, but it's really not. To get started here are the ingredients you'll want to have on hand:
- Sugar cubes (or simple syrup--if you must)
- Luxardo Cherries
Put on a show
This drink is fun to make and you can put on a show when you have friends over. Do yourself a favor and use sugar cubes for this one rather than just squirting pre-made simple syrup in a glass. There’s something to be said about soaking the cubes with bitters and adding a dramatic splash of chilled water. I like to use a splash of real Kentucky limestone water—yes, you can buy it by the bottle now. It really is worth it as the water tastes different from any other you'll use. The ultimate part of the show is when you reach for your muddler and grind everything up. What’s that? You don’t have a muddler? No self-respecting cocktail aficionado should be without one. I prefer a wooden one that is simple and cleans up easily at the end of the night.
Speaking of sugar cubes, like everything else these days, you can go old school and use the pure cane sugar white squares—my preferred approach, or use a craft sugar rock or even a Demerara cube. I personally stay away from the brown sugar cubes because that’s all I taste when I use them.
Tips for success
To prepare this cocktail you need the right tools, especially the muddler. I prefer to muddle and mix the drink in a mixing glass rather than the glass I drink it from. That's because when I strain the cocktail into the drinking glass, any undissolved sugar and orange bits stay in the mixing glass and it makes for a 'cleaner' cocktail.
- Muddle a little extra orange peel with the sugar to give it a little extra flavor.
- When using the orange peel, don't cut too deep and get into the bitter rind of the orange--you'll want to just skim the orange skin.
- Don't forget to 'express' the orange peel. The orange scent adds to the drinking experience.
Onto the main event with the heavyweight champ—The Old Fashioned, the original cocktail.Print
The heavyweight champ of cocktails, the Old Fashioned is a winner all year 'round. It's a Madmen favorite and you'll like it, too.
2-3 sugar cubes
3 or 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 orange peels
2 oz. bourbon
1 dash of purified water
1 cocktail cherry
- Put sugar cubes in your cocktail mixer.
- Add 3 or 4 dashes of bitters - you want to saturate your sugar cubes.
- Add a dash of cold water.
- Peel a little orange peel off and add that to the bottom of the glass. Keep it separate from the piece you want to use as garnish.
- With your muddler, crush the sugar cubes and grind them up.
- Pour in the bourbon.
- Add two generous scoop of ice and stir vigorously to mix it all up and chill it.
- Using your bar strainer, pour it in your Old Fashioned glass or rocks glass.
- Add a large block or ball of ice to keep it cool.
- Last, add a bit of orange peel and a cherry for garnish. But you should express the orange peel into the glass first. Do this by twisting it until you see a little of the essence spray from the peel. Then slide the orange peel and cherry onto a drink pick, and you're ready to enjoy!
You can use craft sugar cubes to give the drink different flavors
Have fun with different bitters flavors like orange and black walnut.
If you're in a hurry, by all means reach for the simple syrup rather than crushing the sugar cubes.
You can use Rye rather than Bourbon to make a spicier cocktail with a harder bite.
Keywords: Kentucky, bourbon cocktails, madmen cocktails, mid century cocktails, rat pack cocktails, Don Draper cocktails, 1950's cocktails, 1960's cocktails, 1940's cocktails