As April draws to a close, so too does our month-long exploration of the Old-Fashioned cocktail. But fear not—Bevvy Presents will return in May with a brand new subject, inspired by that hallowed day of Southern drinking, the Kentucky Derby.
Before that, however, it’s time for our fourth and final installment on the cocktail that started it all. Over the past three weeks, we’ve covered the origins and history of the Old-Fashioned, its classic, unassailable recipe dating back to the nineteenth century, and even some of the more creative variations that have come out of the modern mixology renaissance. Today, we’re going to tell you where to track down a good one for yourself.
We’ll start with San Francisco. It’s Bevvy’s backyard, after all, and also boasts some of the finest cocktail bars in the country. But so does Chicago, where our local ambassador has been putting in the (oh so tiresome) legwork to track down the best Old-Fashioneds in her neck of the woods.
One of our favorite Old-Fashioneds in the city, this classic, speakeasy-style establishment on Market Street went so far as to name their signature variation after the bar itself. The Local Edition more or less follows the traditional Old-Fashioned recipe, but puts a slight twist on the original with cherry-infused Angostura bitters and a specific call for Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon.
Bourbon & Branch
Bourbon & Branch (named after the traditional phrase for mixing your whiskey with a little water) is a legend in the San Francisco cocktail scene. It’s about as close to an authentic speakeasy as you can get without the liquor actually being outlawed, even going so far as to require a password for entry and containing no fewer than five different hidden bars within its depths. When you order an Old-Fashioned here, you’re guaranteed a cocktail of timeless craftsmanship.
Venturing a little further from downtown, The Alembic is a cocktail mainstay in the Upper Haight. With a frequently-updated menu and some truly wonderful classics, this is a bar that respects the old-school without ever shying away from experimentation. Their Bourbon Old-Fashioned is simple, elegant, and ditches “the fruit salad with which the noble old warhorse is so often weighed down.”
The Green Mill
While Bourbon & Branch may be legendary in San Francisco, The Green Mill is its more historic counterpart in Chicago. It was a favorite of Al Capone during Prohibition, and was originally much larger—in fact, it was once intended to be the American answer to the Moulin Rouge (which roughly translates to the “Red Mill,” hence the name). This is a somewhat less traditional Old-Fashioned—well, depending on who you ask—and is served with an orange rind and a cherry muddled with the bitters and sugar, as well as a splash of soda water. Not for the purists, necessarily, but a great cocktail nonetheless.
Named for the traditionally-unlucky room that hotels typically skip altogether, Room 13 is a password-protected speakeasy under the Old Chicago Inn. They use only authentic, Prohibition-era ingredients and require appropriately formal attire, thoroughly completing the atmosphere. The Room 13 Old-Fashioned utilizes a mixture of Angostura, orange, and Fee Brothers bitters, bourbon, demerara syrup, and is served over ice with a lemon and orange twist. This is certainly not one to miss.
The Billy Sunday
The Billy Sunday boasts what might be the nation’s largest selection of Fernet, stocking well over 200 varieties, as well as a collection of vintage glassware that’s nothing to sneeze at. Their take on the Old-Fashioned is a classic, but the single, irregularly-cut chunk of ice adds a nice bohemian edge to a drink that sometimes runs the risk of being a little too staunchly traditional.
Obviously, this is far from an exhaustive list. As we explore new cities (and delve deeper into our own), we’ll be sure to update our recommendations. Did we leave out your favorite haunt? Feel free to leave us a suggestion in the comments!
This is the last installment of a four-part series on the Old-Fashioned. Don’t forget to catch up with parts one, two, and three, and keep an eye out for more features from Bevvy Presents coming soon.
Photo: Jennifer Morrow
Looks like that was a bit of a mix-up on our part. Sorry Luke!
That’s not Room 13’s Old Fashioned. They don’t carry Rittenhouse or use simple syrup in their Old Fashioned. They use bourbon and demerara. It’s also not served up, but over ice with a lemon and orange twist.
Can’t believe the largest selection of Fernet would be in Chicago and not San Francisco. SF, we’re slipping.