Old Fashioned at Local Edition SF

At Bevvy, we know that we’re privileged to have a discerning readership. Our users enjoy the fact that they can quickly and easily share cocktail recipes, notes, and photos with their fellow enthusiasts – but from time to time, we all like to indulge in discussions that go a little deeper. That’s why we’re kicking off a new series called Bevvy Presents, where we’ll explore the ins and outs of a different featured cocktail every month. Each week, we’ll be sharing a new article about the drink’s origins, variations, and recommendations on where to order a good one for yourself.

In the spirit of classic, timeless drinking, we’re going to start by taking a look at an American original that has survived the shifting whims of popular culture and questionable taste for more than 150 years. The subject of much inter-generational debate and probably more than a few good bar fights, this recipe has become a mainstay of the globally resurgent craft cocktail culture and, for many, a litmus test for the credibility of any new establishment. And with the final half-season of Mad Men just around the corner, this beloved tipple of Don Draper seemed a fitting subject for our inaugural feature. So, without further ado, Bevvy is proud to present: The Old-Fashioned.

Despite the perennial fame of its cousins Manhattan and Martini, the Old-Fashioned is often regarded as the most essential of the classic cocktails. This is, perhaps, a result of the fact that it follows a tradition dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century – the very dawn of the word “cocktail” itself. We’ll delve further into its history in a forthcoming article, but for now all you need to know is that many drinkers of the day were adamant about taking a little hair of the dog with their breakfast. To make the spirits softer on the morning palate, they were typically combined with sugar, water, and bitters.

The Old-Fashioned, at its core, is exactly that: bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar, Angostura bitters, ice, and a twist of citrus. It’s not a particularly complicated drink, and that’s exactly what we love about it. The secondary ingredients don’t mask or overpower the spirit, and when proportioned correctly, allow it to be enjoyed in a new light. Bourbon and rye whiskeys are complex, subtle liquors that offer a truly astonishing variety of flavor profiles, and the Old-Fashioned is well equipped to highlight those that might be lost in the harshness of a straight pour. In a way, it’s more a method of framing the whiskey than it is a separate drink.

Here, we’ll walk you through the basics of crafting an Old-Fashioned that truly lives up to its name. This enduring recipe casts aside any frilly trappings in favor of time-honored accessibility, candor, and nuance, and we guarantee that once you’ve mastered it you’ll feel a great deal more in touch with the spirit of the American cocktail. And, most importantly, you’ll have a hell of a drink in your hands.

The Old-Fashioned


1 – The Glass

Where other cocktails are relegated to generic glassware (a highball, for instance), the Old-Fashioned has the distinction of its own eponymous vessel. An Old-Fashioned glass is a short tumbler with a thick bottom and parallel sides, and comes in both single and double sizes.

2 – The Sugar

There are two equally valid methods of adding sugar to an Old-Fashioned. First, and probably easiest, is to use a splash of simple syrup (here’s a recipe on how to make simple syrup at home). Alternatively, and more traditionally, you can use a sugar cube or a small amount of granulated sugar and muddle it with a few drops of water. Keep in mind, however, that the latter method runs the risk of leaving a crunchy puddle of sweetener at the bottom of your glass, so make sure you completely dissolve the sugar before moving on.

The important part here is to use the sugar sparingly. It’s there to soften the whiskey, not turn it into dessert.

3 – The Bitters

The classic Old-Fashioned is made with Angostura bitters, but a number of other flavored bitters (orange comes to mind) can do just as well. Make sure your bottle of choice has a dasher top—if not, you probably want to use an eye-dropper—and add one or two dashes to taste. If you’re using granulated sugar, you can wait to muddle it until this step.

4 – The Whiskey

Now comes the soul of the Old-Fashioned—or more correctly, the spirit. While there are variations on this cocktail that employ everything from dark rum to genever (an ancestor of modern gin made in the Netherlands and Belgium), the traditional recipe calls for 2 ounces of American rye or bourbon.

Which whiskey you use is entirely a matter of personal preference. Bourbon tends to have a somewhat sweet and mellow character, while rye is usually a bit drier and spicier. We suggest you experiment with both and choose for yourself.

5 – The Ice

Ice is always a complicated and divisive part of any cocktail recipe, and that goes double for the Old-Fashioned. Some purists insist that to include it at all is heresy, as it dilutes the cocktail when it melts. On the other side of the aisle are those who add dozens of cubes, infuriating their counterparts.

Neither philosophy is wrong, but there’s a happy compromise that tends to keep most people satisfied: a single, large ice cube. A large cube melts more slowly than small chips, keeping the drink from getting too watered-down, but provides enough dilution and chill to soften it up and make it refreshing. Professional bartenders will often cut or shape their ice from large blocks by hand, but the home mixologist can purchase a number of specialty molds that are much less labor-intensive.

6 – The Twist

Like ice, a twist of citrus is optional in an Old-Fashioned, but we tend to enjoy it. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, cut a segment of the peel from a fresh lemon or orange (there are many accepted shapes and sizes, so as with everything, we recommend experimentation). Holding the peel over the cocktail, twist it with both hands to spray the surface with a fine mist of essential oils, then drop it into the glass.

7 – The First Sip

What you have now is a stately, versatile cocktail that can be tweaked, personalized, and perfected to your heart’s content. While it’s certainly as old-fashioned as they come, its simplicity and subtlety make it a classic that you’ll want to revisit time and again. But for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy your handiwork.


This is part one of our four-part series on the Old-Fashioned. Don’t miss out on part two (variations on the old-fashioned)three (history of the old-fashioned), and four (where to order an old-fashioned), and keep your eyes peeled for more features from Bevvy Presents!

Crafting the Old-Fashioned cocktail, an American classic that's still the essence of cool after 150 years.

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