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History of the classic Old Fashioned

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1881 | Louisville, USA


The name of the cocktail is by no means an accident. First of all, this is a cocktail mixed according to the most classic formula: alcohol, sugar, bitters, and water. Secondly, this is one of the oldest cocktail, whose recipe hasn’t changed for almost a century and a half.


Way back in 1881, in Louisville, Kentucky, the Pendennis Club opened as a gathering place for the local aristocracy. Among other drinks, bartenders there served a so-called Whiskey Cocktail, which became a favorite of Colonel James Pepper, a respected member of the club and a major bourbon producer.

Later, the colonel presented the drink at the Waldorf Astoria’s legendary bar, where such drinks as the Bronx and the Rob Roy got their start in life. The “old-fashioned” formula lives on to the present day: an angostura-soaked sugar cube is crushed in the glass with a small quantity of water, then the glass is filled with ice cubes and bourbon. Needless to say, the Old Fashioned lent its name to a wide-bottomed glass which, according to one version of the story, took its form from a whiskey bottle with the top shot off.


It must be said that Old Fashioned enthusiasts can shout themselves hoarse over which of the cocktails is “correct.”  Conservatives don’t want to betray the classic, while their more flexible colleagues prefer a more nuanced approach, mixing both a cherry and an orange slice into the glass with the sugar. This is a case when arguments over taste only heat up the interest in a cocktail.


See the recipe


Historian: Vladimir Zhuravlev

Illustration: Mine

Journalists: Sara Davis, Samantha Johnson

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