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How to enjoy whiskey the ‘old-fashioned’ way

By Kevin Hopper

Perhaps one of the most iconic, misunderstood and modified drink in the history of cocktails is the Old-fashioned. At Capitol Bar, I am seeing more and more people ordering this, the oldest of all classic cocktails, and I couldn’t be happier crafting it for them.

Originally known as simply a “whiskey cocktail” when it first appeared in the early 19th century, the drink was composed of whiskey (likely rye since that was popular at the time), sugar, water and bitters. Over time, bartenders began to tinker with the recipe, adding newer liqueurs of the time such as Chartreuse, according to Robert Simonson, author of Old Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail. This likely upset most folks used to the original, or “old-fashioned” recipe. The drink was then called out as an “Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail,” and subsequently shortened to old fashioned.

Then along came the bartenders who thought it would be a good idea to muddle oranges and cherries in the cocktail. That trend held sway for decades, until modern bartenders dug deep into the cocktail’s past and returned the original version to its current glory. This is the stance I take and have been consistently rewarded with approval by the satisfied faces of my guests.

Ultimately, if you go to 10 different bars and order an Old-fashioned in each one, you’ll get 10 different takes on it. Which one is correct? Only your palate can decide that.

This recipe uses a good amount of stirring in order to craft the perfect dilution. Without stirring, the drink will be very strong. Also, feel free to use half rye and half bourbon, depending on your tastes.

Kevin Hopper has often been called old-fashioned, and is perfectly fine with that. You can find him mixing drinks at State Street cocktail house Capitol Bar.



2 ounces whiskey (rye or bourbon or a mix of both)

1/2 ounce simple syrup

3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters

Splash of water

Splash of soda water

Orange twist garnish

In a rocks glass, shake 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters, add simple syrup, water and a couple ice cubes and begin to stir. Add whiskey, another ice cube or two and continue to stir. Add a splash of soda water and stir. Squeeze the oils from an orange rind into the glass and drop into the drink. Alternately, you can strike a match and spray the oil through the flame across the top of the drink. This adds a unique smoky quality. Sip slowly as you sink into an easy chair.


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