Old-Fashioned by Robert Simonson

thus a sturdy one — one built to last. And it has lasted until today. Not only lasted, but thrived. Not only thrived, but triumphed. You can get a close copy of that 225-year-old drink today in any bar or restaurant you care to enter. It’s called an Old-Fashioned. This is a glorious time to be an Old-Fashioned drinker, even more so than during the postwar days. Back then, the drink was common and plentiful. You could buy one anywhere, and every bartender knew how to make a decent one. But the whiskey used may not have been top shelf, the ice was substandard, and you had to contend with a garnish of orange slice and traffic-light-red maraschino cherry — “the garbage,” as purists called it. Over the past decade, that Old-Fashioned has enjoyed a glow-up, as the kids say. The whiskey is better; sometimes it’s rye, as it was back in the late 1800s, and often it’s of a higher proof. The ice in the best craft cocktail bars is limited to a single, crystalline cube, which both beautifies the drink and preserves its flavor, saving the contents from premature dilution. And the fruit element has been cut back to an orange twist or lemon twist, or both (called “rabbit ears”), garnishes that enhance and amplify the flavors in the whiskey but don’t muddy the appearance of the cocktail. Furthermore, nobody’s spraying any soda water on top of the drink. Yes, you’ll still get the lazy 1950s version in many bars — most bars, really. But the point is, you don’t have to settle for it anymore. Quality abounds. And people aren’t settling. They’re demanding a better Old-Fashioned, and they’re getting it. It helps that these people are, by and large, young, as young people tend to get what they want. It could be argued that more young adults are drinking Old-Fashioneds today than at any point in history. It’s actually a trendy drink. And the Old-Fashioned, while always popular, was

The zenith of American culture arrived in the two decades following World War II. The surest illustration of this is that all three of the country’s greatest contributions to world civilization were in full flower. On Broadway, the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Leonard Bernstein, and Lerner and Loewe were, song by song, contributing a fat new volume to the American songbook. The clubs in Chicago, New Orleans and New York City pulsated with the bebop sounds of jazz greats in the making Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane and Bill Evans. And, in bars across the nation, people were drinking cocktails. Yes, cocktails. Cocktails are the American invention that America forgets to crow about. We took what the rest of the world had to offer — liquor, bitters, wine, fruit, sugar, eggs, milk, what have you — and tossed them together in various combinations. And, because this wasn’t England, because we were all proud individuals deserving of our own special serving, we didn’t deposit those mixtures in a punch bowl. We put them into separate small glasses. The potions went by various names: flips, slings, sours, juleps, cobblers, fixes, fizzes, bucks and cocktails. In a century’s time, we would come to refer to all mixed drinks as cocktails, but back in 1806, when the term was first defined in print, a cocktail meant a specific, and rather minor, category of alcoholic beverage, one composed of spirit, water, sugar and bitters. It was a simple composition, and



Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker