The Old Fashioned: Louisville's Official Cocktail - The Whiskey Wash

The Old Fashioned: Louisville’s Official Cocktail

By Maggie Kimberl / December 1, 2015
The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned Cocktail (image courtesy of Maggie Kimberl)

The Old Fashioned cocktail is said to have originated in Louisville, Kentucky’s Pendennis Club.  There are many variations of the story, but the basic story is this: bar patrons would often order cocktails made “in the old-fashioned way,” and the name just sort of stuck.

“Although some say it is an adaptation from another cocktail- perhaps the Whiskey Cobbler or the Whiskey Cocktail- others argue that it is the original cocktail. . . That’s not bad for a drink that most sources say originated in the Bluegrass State,” says Albert Schmid’s The Old Fashioned

The cocktail is simple enough- bourbon, of course, a sugar cube or simple syrup, bitters, a flamed orange peel, and a cherry.  There are as many variations of The Old Fashioned as there are bartenders, of course.  Some muddle fruit at the bottom and stir in the rest of the ingredients with ice.  Others skip the muddling, allowing the flamed orange peel to lend all the fruity notes to the cocktail.  Still others substitute rye for the bourbon, and some use flavored whiskeys such as maple.

Then there are the bitters- there are as many different types of bitters as there are people in the bourbon industry, and some bartenders even make their own.

The Old Fashioned is such an integral part of Louisville’s bourbon culture and heritage, the mayor recently dubbed it the “Official Cocktail of Louisville.”  Most stops on The Urban Bourbon Trail will feature their own variations.  Here’s my official variation:

1.5 oz. bourbon

.25 oz. simple syrup

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Flamed orange peel, squeezed and dropped in the glass

1 cocktail cherry

Combine all ingredients in a rocks glass filled with ice and stir.

About the author

Maggie Kimberl

One night during Derby week, I was working in the liquor store while Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge was doing a tasting. I kept trying to make my way over to talk to him, but we were super busy (did I mention it was Derby week?) and I didn't make it in time. Dejected, I went back to the break room and started eating my lunch. The next thing I knew, Rutledge came through the door, saying, "You didn't get to do my tasting!" He sat down and explained how to taste bourbon, the ten recipes of Four Roses, and how it was different than other distilleries. I had liked bourbon before that point, but Jim Rutledge made me care about it. That's the beautiful thing about the bourbon industry- the people love what they do, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Now here we are. :)