Saturday Evening Cocktail Blogging: the Old-Fashioned Cocktail

by Will on February 27, 2011

The aptly named cocktail of times past, recently re-popularized by television’s Don Draper:

1 1/2 oz. Bourbon or rye whiskey

1 sugar cube

5 or 6 vigorous dashes of Angostura bitters

Muddle the sugar and bitters at the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, put ice and whiskey on top, serve with a cherry, orange slice, and anything else you might feel like adding.

As previously noted, there was a time when “cocktail” referred specifically to this basic recipe: spirit + sugar + bitters. In America, whiskey cocktails would be the preferred mix, though in Wisconsin the state drink is the Brandy Old-Fashioned, which uses the same recipe but with brandy as the spirit. Two-hundred years ago that drink would have been called a “brandy cocktail.”

The first printed definition of the word “cocktail” gives evidence of this fact, and is otherwise fairly awesome. It is from a paper named The Balance, from 1803:

Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.

Sante!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jen March 4, 2011 at 10:19 pm

At first I was not a fan of this drink–despite being one of Don Draper’s biggest fans. I persevered and now find it to my liking. So much of drinking is like that!

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