I love a well-made Old Fashioned. I’ve recently learned how to make a great one at home, but I also like to try this cocktail when out for dinner at restaurants with a craft bar menu. (As an aside, I will probably offend any true bourbon snobs with this post so please accept my sincerest apologies in advance and I beg you to refrain from guilting me in the comment box.)
Many of my friends and colleagues know I love to try new bars, especially if they have a quality Old Fashioned. I was in Dallas earlier this year for work and heading to a group dinner with a couple colleagues. We drove by a bar that my Dallas-dwelling co-worker claimed had “the best Old Fashioned in Dallas.” I looked at my other colleague and we said in unison, “Turn around!” So we quickly made a turn and headed back to the restaurant for a quick drink before meeting the group for dinner. The drink lived up to the hype. If you ever find yourself in Dallas, go check out Hibiscus and order an Old Fashioned. You won’t be sorry.
For this delicious concoction, it is important to use a good bourbon, but not the best bourbon. When you’re mixing it with bitters, sugar, fruit and water, it’s a waste to use a bourbon that is better straight or on the rocks. For a regular bourbon, I like to use Four Roses Small Batch — it’s a great price point and has just the right flavor and punch when mixed with all the appropriate ingredients. For a rye, there are a ton of great choices, but I have Templeton Rye on hand right now, though when out to dinner, I’ll order Bulleit or whatever the bartender might suggest for their particular mixture.
Also, I am guilty of loving the fruit additions. I add both the cherry and the orange peel. Sometimes I even ask for extra cherries and cherry juice to be added in. Mmmm. I have a love affair with cherry alcoholic beverages. Many will claim that it ruins the flavor of a good bourbon, but I’ve come to adopt the mindset of “drink what makes you happy” so if more fruit in your Old Fashioned makes you happy, go for it! My favorite cherries to use are the Luxardo Maraschino Cherries — they are not cheap, but they are worth every penny. I can get them at my local liquor store for a little cheaper than Amazon so be on the lookout for the best price. Naval oranges are my recommendation for the orange peel since they are bigger and have a lot of flavor in the peel.
Then when it comes to the sugar cube, I prefer to use raw sugar cubes which I picked up at Whole Foods — they add a more “organic” feel rather than refined, white sugar cubes. I’m guilty of enjoying the finest ingredients. The bitters are the bitters and you can pick them up at any bottle shop. They last forever, so don’t be thrown by the $7-9 price tag. Remember, you only need a few dashes per drink so the bottle goes a long way!
Without further ado, here is my recipe:
- 2 ounces bourbon — regular or rye depending on your choice
- 1 oz soda water
- 5 dashes Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- 1 sugar cube — I use sugar cane cubes instead of refined sugar cubes.
- 1 cherry — I prefer Luxardo cherries, which are very expensive but also very worth it.
- 1 orange peel
Build in an Old Fashioned glass (similar to a cocktail glass). Place sugar cube in glass and coat with bitters. Place cherry in and muddle together. Ideally, add 1 single large ice cube, but if not possible, several ice cubes. Add bourbon and stir with orange peel before leaving it on the side of the glass.
When I was in Texas, I had the opportunity to try both of these bourbons pictured below from 1835 — solid bourbon, especially for the price points, and they really got me with the cherry bourbon. It was the best Old Fashioned I’ve ever had when the cherry bourbon was used. I think about it all the time and wish I had bought myself a bottle to bring back home. If you live in Texas and can find it, I’ll love you forever if you get me some. Just saying! The cherry bourbon coupled with the quality ingredients of an Old Fashioned — it was a slice of Heaven.
I must confess, part of the reason I jumped on the Old Fashioned bandwagon was due to my adoration for the famed tv show, Mad Men. Don Draper and his band of advertising misfits have drawn out of me a love for this period in American history: the clothes, the formalities, the drinks, the atmosphere. My love for the vintage has grown as I watch and re-watch this iconic series. So I leave you with one of my favorite scenes: When Don Draper hops the bar and makes an Old Fashioned for who he would later come to know as Conrad Hilton, American hotelier and the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain. Take it away, Don.