From the sweet undertones of a bourbon to the smoky notes of a rye – trust whiskey to add a complex and flavourful touch to any cocktail. And amidst the scores of amber-based concoctions that underline the world of mixology, the classic old-fashioned – bitter and smooth – comes out on top. We’re sipping our way through some of its more unique renditions.
An on-the-rocks single malt whisky ritual might be a time-honoured one for many malt aficionados, but an old-fashioned is just as beloved. The history books deem it to be one of the oldest alcoholic concoctions on record. Reportedly, it was first developed around the late 1800s in a gentlemen’s club in Kentucky as a beverage that upheld the old-fashioned values of decency, decorum, and civility. Typically, the recipe calls for sugar, bitters, and bourbon.
Some add in a muddled orange and maraschino cherry – assumed to be a nod to the practice of using fruit to mask the flavour of spirits during the Prohibition period. Fast forward to a few years and it is now a mainstay across most bars and restaurants. Of late, however, bartenders have stepped things up a notch by experimenting with different ingredients that compliment the sweet-bitter flavours of this cocktail. And the results range from an indulgent cocoa number to a warming cider rendition. Here’s a few worth experimenting with.
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Fun variations on the traditional old-fashioned whiskey cocktail
Rosemary Old Fashioned
Adding an herbal touch to the bitter-sweet flavours of an old-fashioned, this flavour combination truly rounds out the classic. The recipe calls for homemade simple syrup, bourbon whiskey, Angostura bitters, ice, and rosemary. Lighting up the rosemary branch gives this drink a distinctive smokiness that really allows the malt’s nuances to shine. Be sure to take it easy with the bitters as too many drops could throw the flavours off balance. That aside, garnish with ice and smoked rosemary.
Coffee Old Fashioned
If you enjoy the bitter-nutty-aromatic quality of coffee, we can’t think of a better old-fashioned variation. The recipe imitates a cold brew and calls for coffee liqueur, rye whiskey, orange bitters, and good quality. Build it in a tall glass, stir, and garnish with an orange twist. If you’re feeling a bit indulgent, you could add grated white or dark chocolate to this combination as well. Voila! A whiskey cocktail with a caffeine kick.
Bacon Old Fashioned
Bacon isn’t just for breakfast! This seemingly unusual combination – officially called The Benton’s Old Fashioned – came about when bartender Don Lee borrowed Benton’s Bacon from a restaurant next door to make a fat wash that he later infused with old-fashioned flavours. Today, it holds a near legendary status in bartending circles. The recipe calls for grilling four slices of smoky bacon until it releases 30 ml fat and pouring this into 70 cl of bourbon and leaving it to infuse overnight. Freeze and clarify the bourbon through a cheesecloth. Then combine with maple syrup and Angostura bitters. Serve over ice and garnish with a bacon strip.
Chocolate Old Fashioned
No cocktail roundup would be complete without a classic, indulgent cocoa number. The quirk of this particular one, however, is that it doesn’t contain any chocolate – perfect for if you’re sensitive or on a diet. The recipe calls for bourbon, Maraschino, cocoa bitters, and cherry syrup. The flavours are creamy and harmonious – you can’t really go wrong with chocolate and cherry! Serve over ice or neat and garnish with cherries.
Bourbon and Honey Old Fashioned
Warming and indulgent, this one doesn’t stay too far from the original recipe. You’d need honey, bourbon whiskey, bitters, water, cherries, and orange peel to whip this one up. Be sure to watch your honey syrup closely when you’re stirring it and serve it all in a low-ball glass. If you’ve got an autumn celebration upcoming, this is the drink to go with. Besides, it’s so simple to make, there’s no excuses to not give it a go.
Spiced Old Fashioned
While we’re on the subject of warming drinks, this recipe by Paul John Indian Single Malt is as delicious as they come. It fuses peated, smoky whisky with the most delicious spices. You’ll need Paul John Bold, cloves, orange marmalade, thyme, orange, and Angostura bitters to whip this one up. Stir until well combined and serve over ice. Squeeze an orange wedge to really drive home some citrus notes and garnish with torched orange peel and thyme. Delicious!
Jack & Coke Old Fashioned
If you enjoy a smooth, sweet cocktail, this one is right up your alley. The recipe calls for Jack Daniels whiskey, sherry (Pedro Ximénez ideally), Fernet Branca liqueur, and Coca cola. The flavours do well to balance eachother out, especially when served over ice with an orange twist for a garnish. Considering how Jack Daniels isn’t the most common addition to an old-fashioned, this recipe certainty is a unique take on a classic.
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