I’ve had Old-Fashioned cocktails from bartenders and cocktail mixologists with varying degrees of skill and creativity. Two cocktails were noteworthy for very different reasons.
The best was made by mixologist Kevin Daniels who, at that time, was mixing at Mastro’s Steakhouse in Chicago. It was balanced and bright, with savory and citrus notes. Yet the bourbon was still beautifully present in the cocktail. The brightly colored, rough-hewn orange peel complimented the delicious amber concoction. The first sip and the last were mind-blowing and I DID NOT let a single drop go to waste. That was the summer of 2015.
The worst was by a Rogers Park “mixologist” who obviously had zero interest in recreating the classic rendition. Over-ambitious bartenders can often be more interested in their own interpretations of classics, than simply mastering them. This was definitely the case. It took this dude 10 minutes…TEN minutes, to make one cocktail, the end result not speaking to the commitment of time. He used droppers to add drops of this and that, as if engrossed in atom splicing. The end result? An ugly little water glass (not an actual Old-Fashioned glass) full of high-proof, cold whiskey. It took me forever to finish the drink and just moments to forget the name of the novice craftsperson.
There’s two ways to make the best old-fashioned you’ll ever have. The first? Use my time tested recipe. You’re welcome!
Add all ingredients to a cocktail beaker (minus the orange peel), then add plenty of ice. Stir about 20 seconds. Strain cocktail into a proper (preferably fancy) old-fashioned glass full of fresh ice, or single large ice cube. Twist the orange peel over the cocktail to express the oils over the top of the drink. Rub the peel all over the rim of the glass and drop into the cocktail. Sip & Savor.
The second way to make an amazing old-fashioned? Just get your hands on a bottle of my Refined Classic Old Fashioned blend, and follow the easy-to-use instructions on the back. Again, you’re welcome!
Leonard Brown is Founder/CEO of Refined HandCrafted Cocktail Blends and cocktail mixologist at Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria.