There was a time when this drink was simply called a “whiskey cocktail.” That was the 1860s. Then the Manhattan and the martini came along, and people had to specify when they wanted an “old-fashioned” whiskey cocktail. Obviously the name stuck.
Those early boozers were asking for something stronger than what most bartenders make today. They wanted a glass of rye whiskey with a small amount of sugar, bitters, and water added to it. No muddled fruit — not even an orange garnish — and certainly no maraschino cherries or pineapple.
Fruit came into the picture sometime during the 20th century. But today’s cocktail purists are going back to the drink’s roots, and they will turn up their nose up at a fruity Old Fashioned. They see it as a perversion of the original. They’re not wrong; but we like it with just a little muddled orange peel.
A last note: A proper Old Fashioned is made with a sugar cube that’s moistened with bitters and a splash of water or club soda — not simple syrup.
We suggest you make more, but for one cocktail, you’ll need:
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. rye whiskey
Orange peel (for garnish)
6. Then muddle!
Using a muddler (or even a strong spoon), crush the sugar cube and muddle the orange peel. You’re trying to a) pulverize the sugar so it will dissolve into your cocktail easily, and b) release some of the orange’s essential oils to flavor the drink. Again, cocktail historians and purists would not muddle the orange. Your call.