It's no secret. We love a good cocktail, but before we begin I'd like to preface that these journal entries all come down to personal preference. Most cocktail enthusiast love their cocktails prepared a certain way, some like them done completely different, and some could care less how they're made. There's literally hundreds, if not thousands of different brands and styles of one particular type of liquor, mixer, etc. making the the possibilities endless. Even something as small as a simple garnish or a teaspoon of mixer can throw a cocktail in a completely different direction, which for me personally is what makes them so exciting. There's sweet, savory, and everything in between to make your taste buds completely explode while throwing all expectations of taste out the window.
That being said, I've done probably way too much research on this classic cocktail. Scouring the internet, picking the brains of countless bartenders, plowed through recipe books both old and new, and I've come to the decision that an Old Fashioned, as classic as it may be, can often (more times than not) be completely ruined by it's creator. Now, I'm no professional, but I thought it might be fun to really explore this classic in as many ways as possible. Believe it or not, even this one particular drink has endless possibilities. Over the past few months I've had them made with Peanut Butter Whiskey and Banana Bitters, Maple Syrup instead of sugar, and one where they decided to use house liquor, crushed ice, and just straight grenadine as a sweetener (the last one I would not recommend).
I've attempted, to the best of my ability to figure out what I enjoy most about an Old Fashioned. In theory it's a simple cocktail with whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters. However, finding that delicate balance between not so sweet and too sweet honestly proved to be the trickiest part of this little venture. Most recipes encourage you to muddle sugar, sometimes brown sugar with bitters and water, but I've found through trial and error that making simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar and water) made absolutely sure that level of sweetness is just right by measurement was the ultimate trick. Next up, cocktail bitters. Bitters are an entire world of their own, and the flavor options are endless. Aromatic and orange are the most common, but you can get adventurous with celery, lavender, even root beer flavors. I prefer to stick with the aromatic, but again this all comes down to preference. Last up, the whiskey. A classic Old Fashion requires a rye whiskey. Mainly because rye's are spicier than regular whiskey which tends to be on the sweet side with notes of vanilla. I've experimented with a lot of them, from top shelf to the lowest, and I mean lowest on the totem pole. Woodford, Bulleit, Redemption, Winchester, Whistlepig, Knob Creek, the options are endless. I did notice during my research that when ordering out, for whatever reason, bartenders always go for Makers Mark. Not to say Makers Mark is a bad choice for an Old Fashioned, it is a Kentucky Bourbon with rye, but there's also heavy notes of vanilla and butterscotch, and personally I'd rather enjoy Makers on the rocks.
Finally, the finishing touches: The cherry, orange peel, and ice selection. Believe it or not, cocktail cherries vary drastically. I'm a fan of Jack Rudy and Tillen Farms, but you can't go wrong with Luxardo which is a classic. The orange peel on the other hand I've seen prepared countless ways, the goal with an Old Fashioned is making sure the oils from the orange peel surround the rim of the glass, this is often missed when ordering out. In fact the majority will stick that peel right in the glass (often with a twist for visual effect) not realizing that the bitterness from the inner side of the peel will in return ruin the flavor of the drink. Bringing out those oils is key, and burning (that's right, burning) the inner side of the peel to destroy the bitterness while lifting out the oils is sure to blow people's mind while you're doing it. It seems like a lot of work for a garnish, but the difference in flavor at the end makes it all worth it. Lastly, the ice. The goal is to not let your drink water down before you finish it. I prefer one solid ice cube, but to each his own.
The Old Fashioned is a simple classic at the endow the day, but I had a blast figuring out my preferred recipe. I'll be honest, I'm still up for a bizarre concoction and twist on them from time to time, often times they can be pretty impressive. I've definitely learn to stay clear from ordering them if the particular restaurant doesn't offer their version on the cocktail menu. Having made this cocktail in so many different ways, tweaking even the smallest details here and there over time, I feel that I've finally got it down to a science of how I enjoy them best. Please don't hesitate to drop us a line in the comments with what you prefer, or any recommendations or suggestions on how to improve. We're always up for a great spin on this classic cocktail. Enjoy!
M&K Old Fashion Cocktail Recipe
2oz Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
1oz Simple Syrup
4 to 6 Dashes of Aromatic Bitters
1 Orange Peel
Prepare simple syrup by boiling 1:1 ratio sugar and water, stir until dissolved.
In a mixing glass, mix together 2oz of Knob Creek Rye Whiskey, 1oz Simple Syrup, and 4 to 6 dashes of aromatic bitters.
Place a single, large ice cube in glass, and pour in mixture.
Shave off a single peel of an orange, and using a match, gently heat the inner side of the orange peel to bring out oils. Rub the outside of the peel along the rim of the glass.
Using a cocktail spear, place the orange peel and cherry through the spear for garnish, and enjoy!