The old fashioned – a true classic. And how could it not be with its rich flavor, smooth taste, and bold statement? From humble beginnings in a small Kentucky social club, to climbing its way up the social ladder to the Waldorf-Astoria in The Big Apple, the Old Fashioned is arguably the most popular cocktail in America, even to this day. In fact, 35% of bars that were polled last year ranked the Old Fashioned as their top selling cocktail.
The story of the Old Fashioned begins at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The year, 1880. Esteemed bartender and Bourbon connoisseur, James E. Pepper, is said to have invented the cocktail here before bringing the recipe to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. As its popularity spread, the Old Fashioned began to appear in publications across the country. One of the more notable ones was George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks in 1895. His Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail recipe was complete with sugar, water, whiskey, bitters, and a lemon peel.
Just over 40 years later, the Old Fashioned makes its appearance again, this time in the New York Times. The author, known as “Old Timer” goes on to describe life after the Prohibition. His schtick, the lost art of mixing cocktails. He goes on to reminisce about the good old days when a bartender would “moisten a lump of sugar with Angostura bitters, dropped in a lump of ice, neither too large or too small, stuck in a miniature bar spoon and passed the glass to the client with a bottle of good bourbon from which said client was privileged to pour his own drink.”
Today, the Old Fashioned can be enjoyed with modern twists, or kept simple and classic. One thing is for sure, no matter how you choose to savor it, the Old Fashioned is a timeless cocktail with a history just as rich as its flavor.