As you begin actually mixing cocktails behind your newly developed home bar there are a few “old standbys” that you will want to be able to make; either for yourself or guests you entertain. The first we will discuss is the granddad of cocktails, the Old Fashioned.
Rarely have I attended a party or frequented an establishment when I didn’t see at least one (usually more) of these nestled in an attendee’s grasp…
The story of “The Cocktail” begins with a humorous item in the April 28, 1803 issue of the Farmer’s Cabinet, a newspaper published in Amherst, New Hampshire, which noted “Drank a glass of cocktail—excellent for the head.” At the time the cocktail was also referred to as “a bittered sling” (a “sling” was simply spirit with water and at times a bit of sugar). So, add bitters to a Sling and ipso facto you have your self “A Cocktail”.
The Old Fashioned (c. 1803)
2oz Whiskey (Traditionally Rye or Bourbon)
1 Demerara sugar cube (or barspoon of sugar or .25oz simple syrup)
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Splash of water (unless utilizing syrup)
Method: Muddle the sugar, water and bitters until dissolved and mixture is translucent (the sugar being completely dissolved) then add your spirit and ice, stir to chill. Feel free to build in the serving glass or a mixing glass (then strain over ice, into your rocks/Old Fashioned glass).
The original “cocktail” and a great starter cocktail recipe, as you can mix and match each ingredient of this wonderful creation. It’s a blank canvas/the world is your oyster kind of cocktail. What I mean is, within reason, you can play with the amounts and types of each ingredient, consequently the cocktail changes without going awry.
For example: Replace the traditional Rye or Bourbon Whiskey with Brandy, Gin, Scotch, Mezcal or Tequila, etc… ; replace the sugar/water with an assortment of syrup options and replace the Angostura bitters with another bitter element (cherry bark and vanilla bitters perhaps, mole bitters, or a blend of a few different ones… ) There are so many delicious combinations; you are essentially only limited by your imagination. As Willy Wonka (and the late Gene Wilder) would say “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker”.
It’s easy to see why this was the original cocktail, as well as how cocktails evolved over the years; from such a simple, humble beginning into the wide spectrum we have today. I wouldn’t have it any other way; simply use your imagination and listen to your taste buds. Along your journey, respect your roots and those that came before you; without them we wouldn’t have the cocktail culture we have today.