In the early 1800s, a cocktail was a mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters (the very first mention of a cocktail was roughly 1806, according to David Wondrich). As people started developing more and more complex recipes for drinks, adding absinthe or other liqueurs, those that were looking for a more simple drink would order drinks in the "Old-Fashioned" style.
The most popular ones were based off of rye or bourbon whiskey, which is still one of the most popular cocktails around the world today. The proportions of an Old-Fashioned will give you a spirit-forward (but balanced!) drink no matter what kind of alcohol used- try it with an aged rum or a mezcal sometime if you're curious.
This version uses a rich coffee syrup instead of the traditional sugar cube, which adds another layer of flavor without sacrificing the texture you get from the muddled sugar. The Angostura bitters provides a fragrant floral note, and stirring the ice cubes melts them enough to dilute your whiskey (the water is an important part of the recipe). Twisting the orange peel over the top adds a light spritz of citrus oil to your drink.
Ingredients (makes 1)
1 bar spoon (or teaspoon) rich coffee syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
ice for mixing plus 3-4 ice cubes or 1 very large ice cube
2 ounces bourbon (a good one but not too good)
1 strip of orange peel
a cocktail shaker or pint glass for mixing
a spoon for stirring
a Hawthorne strainer
a rocks glass for drinking
- In a pint glass or the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add the rich coffee syrup and bitters. Put in a scoop of ice and start stirring (this melts some of the ice and helps mix everything together).
- Add the bourbon and stir again, until the outside of your shaker has a layer of condensation on the outside.
- Add your one very large cube (or 3ish regular cubes of ice) to the rocks glass*. Strain the liquid over the cube, then twist the orange peel over the top. You can put the peel in the drink if you want. Enjoy!
*Why use two different kinds of ice? The scoop of ice is for diluting your drink. The other ice is for keeping your drink cold, and larger ice cubes don't melt as quickly. But if you're low on ice, you can just do it all in one glass.