never that before. It was a traditional cocktail for traditional folks. That was true in the ’40s and ’50s, and it was true back in the 1870s and 1880s, when an army of cranky old sops, tired of bartenders slipping Chartreuse and absinthe and maraschino liqueur into their Whiskey Cocktails, started slapping their palms angrily on the bar and demanding an “Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail” — you know, like they used to do! But today, the 20-something man in the slim-cut suit and pocket square and the 20-something woman in the jumpsuit are ordering Old-Fashioneds. It’s the number one order in most bars, eclipsing the Mojito, Cosmo, Margarita and other bestsellers. It was a long time getting there. For, while the Old-Fashioned, like many other cocktails (Jack Rose, Aviation, Last Word, Jungle Bird, Ward Eight, Boulevardier — the list goes on and on), had never completely disappeared, it went through some tough times during the final years of the 20th century. Oh, its flame still burned bright in a few odd corners of the world. London hadn’t forsaken it, though their strange “stirred-down” rendition took 10 minutes to make and was purposely diluted. Wisconsin’s love affair with the drink never waned, but the Badger State made the cocktail with domestic brandy, a squirt of soda pop on top and all sorts of odd garnishes. Meanwhile, down in Buenos Aires they lined the inside of the Old-Fashioned glasses with a wallpaper glue of bitters-sugar mixture. But in most other locales, the drink’s reputation was as a has-been. It was a strange, sad concoction that your mom or dad drank, maybe your grandparents. To young eyes, its appeal was dubious. It tasted oversweet and looked murky. And that anything-but-food cherry was a dodgy character. Even the name was a turnoff. Who wants to be Old-Fashioned when you could be Cosmopolitan?

The brash young mixologists who came of age in the ’00s were just as mystified by the cocktail, if more curious. They understood that the Old-Fashioned was a famous drink, an old drink, a cocktail with a pedigree. But, after sampling a hundred lackluster examples, they didn’t know why. Like a tourist, knowing the fame of the American hot dog, but only knowing the taste of a dirty-water dog from a Manhattan street cart, they were confused. Slowly but surely, though, they beat their way through the modern brush of misinformation and bad bar techniques, back to the drink’s origins in the early 19th century, and its first heyday in the late years of the same century. Old cocktail books from before Prohibition helped. These instructional tomes, written by the greatest bartenders of their time, were out of print and difficult to lay your hands on. But, beginning around 2007, they began to be reissued. Through these, barkeeps could finally see what the Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail had once been. It was not a soupy fruit salad. It was not a tiny bowl of Good Housekeeping punch. It was the simplest and most forthright of drinks. It was the embodiment of the forgotten second half of its name: Whiskey Cocktail. It was all the mixologists had ever been fighting for — complexity within simplicity; proud but smartly accentuated flavors; a portrait of a spirit flattered by a perfect frame. And so, they began serving the Old-Fashioned again as it had never been served in the United States in 100 years. People noticed almost immediately. It was a familiar name, yes, but, to their senses, almost a different drink — a drink they liked better, a drink that taught them that, hey, maybe they liked bourbon after all. Maybe they even liked rye. A good Old-Fashioned can convince you of such life-changing notions. It can also convince you that you want another Old-Fashioned. Or maybe a different Old-Fashioned. Thus, around 2010, the age




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