Explore new twists on an old favorite.
Somewhere in the 20th century a modern abomination known as the Old Fashioned was born.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. The Old Fashioned is arguably America’s first cocktail, and most historians agree it had a very short list of ingredients: Whiskey, sugar, water, bitters, and a big hunk of ice.
Well, someone decided that pummeling fruits to a pulp, pouring sugar onto the mountainous mess, and making it all into a watery swamp with an igloo of ice was a good idea. Was it a Prohibition pirate covering up the taste of bathtub booze, a bell-bottomed barman pandering to a sweet tooth, or just a spiteful saboteur? Who knows?
Unfortunately, it caught on. And the real, original cocktail slid into the same depths disco came from.
Fortunately, the “old” Old Fashioned is back – and I’d have to say better than ever! It’s on menus of the craft cocktail revolution in every corner of the country. Plenty of creative bartenders are riffing on the drink’s roots while paying homage to the real deal.
I’ve been traveling a lot lately and sampling “new” Old Fashioned cocktails all over the place. Here are a few of my favorites.
Best Taste: “Of the Older Fashion” at Eat Street Social (Minneapolis)
The reigning king. From coast to coast, no place has come close. Made with three flavors of Bittercube bitters, this sophisticatedly sweet masterpiece is close-your-eyes greatness in a glass.
Most Innovative: “Old Fashioned In The Rocks” at The Aviary (Chicago)
Why in the rocks and not on, you ask? Well, the tasty top-secret recipe is encased in an ice globe. You crack it open with a slingshot and the spirits spill through the wreckage. Yes.
Most Tastefully Traditional: “Old Fashioned” at The Thirsty Crow (Los Angeles)
(Sorry, it was WAY too dark in there for a photo. And that’s a good thing.)
No fruit, though they squeak a little orange zest in there. This is about as close to “the real thing” as you can get without being militant.
Okay, okay – here are the worst:
- Terrace at Trump Hotel, Chicago. Cool, it smokes! And tastes like chemicals. AND costs 3x!
- Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego. The worst sort of watery fruit punch. When you can’t taste the whiskey in a whiskey cocktail…there’s a problem.
- Signature Room, Chicago. They should rebrand this as a fruit cocktail. Then again, when you have 95th floor views…anything will sell.