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The Perfect Old Fashioned Article – Page 1 of 3

The Perfect Old Fashioned.

By George Sinclair.

There is one drink that a London bartender is not only expected to know but
know well, and that is the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail. The most widely
used method for preparing an Old Fashioned, in the UK, is that which was
advocated by cocktail guru Dick Bradsell. Dick's method involves lots of stirring
and incremental additions of bourbon, ice, bourbon, ice, until the desired
proportions are achieved. Dick derived his method for the Old Fashioned from a
recipe that is contained in his favourite cocktail book, the 1948 book "The
Fine Art of Mixing Drinks", by David Augustus Embury, a prominent New York
lawyer, with a perchance for cocktail snobbery.

"Pour into each glass 1 to 2 teaspoonfuls simple syrup and add 1 to 3 dashes
Angostura. Stir with a spoon to blend the bitters with the syrup. Add about 1
oz. whisky and stir again. Add 2 large cubes of ice, cracked but not crushed
(see page 100). Fill glass to within about 3/8" of top with whisky and stir again.
Add a twist of lemon and drop peel in the glass. Decorate with a maraschino
cherry on a spear. Serve with short stir rod or Old-Fashioned spoon."

The amount of sugar you use in an Old Fashioned should be strictly controlled,
it is just there to balance the bitters, not to be a dominant presence in the
drink. If the Old-Fashioned you make has a noticeably thicker viscocity, due to
the over-use of sugar, then you have made the drink incorrectly.

A good test, which will help you achieve balance in your Old-Fashioneds, is to
try 50ml of good quality bourbon over ice, with the squeezed citrus oils from
an orange twist in it. Taste the drink, and notice how the orange oils and
bourbon work together. To the same glass, add two heavy-handed dashes of
Angostura bitters; Upon tasting this you will noticed that the drink is now
unbalanced, so this is where the sugar comes in, once again, to the same glass,
add a dash of Gomme Syrup (or thick sugar syrup made with 9 parts sugar to 1
part water). Keep tasting the drink and adding small amounts of sugar until the
whole cocktail is harmonius in taste. Do not add so much sugar syrup that the
drink becomes syrupy, or the flavours of the bourbon and orange (which you
already tasted seperately) are smothered. If you have accomplished this little
exercise successfully, then you should notice that the amount of sugar you
actually need in an Old-Fashioned is almost half the 10ml amount that most
bartenders use. If you don't like bitters or bourbon then don't say your favourite
The Perfect Old Fashioned Article – Page 2 of 3

drink is an Old-Fashioned. Having a liking for Bourbon and Coke also doesn't
qualify you as an Old-Fashioned aficionado.

How to make the Perfect Old-Fashioned.

Take a double Old-Fashioned glass, also known as a rocks or whisky glass, to

this add two hefty dashes of Angostura Bitters, from the actual Angostura
branded bottle, not from those stylish looking little droppers. Swirl the bitters
around the all the interior surface of the glass, by tilting and rolling with your
wrist. To the same glass add a small amount of Gomme Syrup (9:1 sugar syrup),
to visualise the amount you need, imagine that you are just pouring enough
syrup to coat the side of a five pence piece, a one penny piece is the
maximum. This is where most people go wrong, they cover the entire bottom
of the glass in Sugar syrup. Fill the glass completely with ice cubes, and then
pour 50 millilitres of good quality bourbon (Knob Creek or Makers Mark) over
the ice. Stir with a barspoon, as you would a Martini or Manhattan cocktail, I
estimate this to be roughly 25-30 rotations, briskly and smoothly executed.
After you finish stirring you should notice that the level of the ice in the glass
has dropped significantly, this is due to the ice melting, this ice-water is now
incoporated into the liquid portion of the drink. Once again fill the glass to the
top with ice, giving it a couple of more stirs to settle the ice, and then squeeze
a freshly cut piece of orange peel onto the surface of the drink. Wipe the same
orange peel around the edges of the glass, and finally slide the orange peel
into the glass itself. Add a stirrer and serve.

A drier, i.e. less sweet, Old-Fashioned is a more preferable libation than one
that is laden with sugar. However, as most people are not connoiseurs of
cocktails, it is best to prepare yourself to add more sweetness if required by
the guest. It is they, afterall, who are ordering, paying for, and then consuming
the drink, not you. This is the major plus point of using sugar syrup in your
cocktails, as the sugar is already in liquid form (i.e. pre-dissolved) it can more
easily be incorporated into drinks which are not deemed to be sweet enough
for the guest. Imagine trying to sweeten a completed Old-Fashioned,
Caipirinha, or Mojito with sugar cubes, it would be awkward to say the less.
Add a few dashes of sugar syrup, briskly stir the drink, and it is done.

The Pendennis Club Fallacy.

It is impossible to write an article on the Old-Fashioned without, in some way,

coming into contact with the story which claims to be from the Pendennis Club,
in Louisville, Kentucky. Interestingly, the first citation for this often referred to
story is actually from 1931, as is from Old Waldorf Bar Days, by Albert Stevens
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"This was brought to the old Waldorf in the days of its “sit-down” Bar, and
introduced by, or in honor of, Col. James E. Pepper, of Kentucky, proprietor of
a celebrated whiskey of the period. The Old-fashioned Whiskey cocktail was
said to have been the invention of a bartender at the famous Pendennis Club in
Louisville, of which Col. Pepper was a member."

However, according to cocktail historian and cocktail book author, David

Wondrich, due to the Pendennis Club not being founded until 1881, and the
first references to the Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail coming from February
1880, this story is completely false.