History of the Old-Fashioned

Despite the rustic name, the old-fashioned has remained relevant for over 100 years with its simple recipe and delightful flavor. Many fine dining establishments offer their own signature version of one of the original cocktails. Here is how the old-fashioned came to be one of the most iconic American drinks from the bar.


For those who have never had an old fashioned, it is a very simple cocktail that highlights and elevates the flavor profile of whiskey like none other. The drink is comprised of 2 oz rye or bourbon whiskey, a lump of ice, sugar to taste, a couple dashes of bitters, with a strip of lemon or orange peel as a garnish. 


The earliest known recorded reference to this drink was in a book that was printed in the middle of the American Civil War. In 1862, a book entitled Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks was printed featuring recipes for several cocktails and standardizing how the drinks were made. 


In this book, there was a recipe for the “Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail.” This drink was the same combination of simple ingredients that would go on to become the “modern” old-fashioned, except made with gin.


Whiskey became the spirit of choice in the 1880’s when the bartender of a Louisville gentlemen’s club reportedly made the drink for a renowned bourbon distiller. He made him a cocktail the “old-fashioned” way with bourbon and it became an instant hit in Louisville. The drink became an American bar staple when the recipe was shared with staff at a luxury hotel in New York City called the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.


The drink was a national favorite and enjoyed in homes and restaurants everywhere. That is until prohibition was enacted in 1920. The old-fashioned disappeared from restaurants and bars across America. When prohibition was repealed in 1933 the old-fashioned was back, but with some interesting additions. Bartenders started to add fruit like cherries, pineapples, oranges, lemons, and limes to the drink. 


This caused a bit of an uproar from the old-fashioned purists. They thought the drink was perfect in its simplicity and adding a fruit salad to it was a profane mockery. This is still a widely held belief, but many reputable restaurants still feature a cherry or orange wedge in their version of the old-fashioned. In recent history, the old-fashioned has been customized to fit regional tastes with different types of spirit and controversial combinations of fruit. 


We suggest that you grab your Cruvina unbreakable cocktail tumblers and start experimenting and adding to the history of one of the oldest drinks in America. However you enjoy the drink the most is the best way to drink it! 

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