The Old Fashioned is, perhaps, the oldest recipe on record for a cocktail still being served today. Over a hundred and ten years old, the Old Fashioned is the granddaddy of mixed drinks. Unfortunately, the drink has been watered down over the decades until the diluted version you most likely would receive in a bar today bears little resemblance to the original whiskey drink of yesteryear.
Here is the oldest known recipe for the old fashioned, as found in “Modern American Drinks” by George J. Kappeler, published in 1895:
THE OLD-FASHIONED WHISKEY COCKTAIL
Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.
Back in the day, a teaspoon of water was used to dissolve the sugar in the bottom of the glass, the bitters was added and the lemon peel was crushed before the whiskey was added. It was a process that took a little patience and a dash of effort, but turned out a superb drink.
These days, store-bought Old Fashioned mix is often substituted for bitters, the sugar (if used at all) isn’t properly dissolved before the alcohol is added and superfluous fruit is usually added. Worse yet, the whole shebang is watered down with soda in a misguided attempt to serve the customer a full glass.
But if you have the time and inclination, you’ll find it is worth your while to make an old fashioned the way they used to.