How the Old Fashioned made Craft Cocktails New Fashioned

Shawn Michael and I weren't always aware of the art of the cocktail.  It began several years ago with our friend Patrick and a couple of Old Fashioned cocktails at a studio apartment in North Park.  The Old Fashioned is a classic recipe responsible for many a transition from bleary nights of margarita mix and Jack & Cokes to sophisticated soirees featuring Negronis and Manhattans.

Craft & Commerce, photo courtesy of CH Projects

Craft & Commerce, photo courtesy of CH Projects

Shortly after falling hard for good bourbon in a stiff drink, we had the pleasure of discovering Craft & Commerce, a great little Prohibition-Era Cocktail Bar in Little Italy. The rest is history. They serve up Old-Fashioned after Old-Fashioned, and have quite a few variations, both on-menu and off. 

If you haven't had one, you should try one. Get down to C&C, or some other cocktail bar that uses bar spoons (instead of a straw to stir cocktails --- yes, I've seen it happen), has a good selection of bitters on the counter, and fresh oranges for garnishes.

The Old Fashioned is also great for making at home - so simple, in a cinch you'll have it memorized:

  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1/4 oz rich simple syrup
  • 2 oz bourbon whiskey
  • Orange twist

Add the bitters and simple syrup to a mixing glass. Add ice, and then the bourbon. Stir briskly to blend and chill, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass with a large ice rock, or several 1" ice cubes. Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, cut a strip of orange. Hold the orange peel with the outside facing toward the glass, and pinch it to spritz the orange oil over the surface, then garnish with the peel. Try this recipe with various bitters - we like using coffee bitters and walnut bitters to mix it up. 

Old Fashioned Workshop - making me thirsty!  Shown here are Coffee Rye Bitters from San Francisco's Workhorse Rye.

Old Fashioned Workshop - making me thirsty!  Shown here are Coffee Rye Bitters from San Francisco's Workhorse Rye.

If you've enjoyed the Old Fashioned, next time ask for an Improved Whiskey Cocktail (yeah). We liked it so much out that we bought Absinthe and Maraschino liqueur to make them at home -- that's how our home bar got started. Just bourbon, bitters, absinthe and maraschino, for about the first year.  Here's a good recipe for the Improved Whiskey Cocktail from There Will Be Bourbon.  It omits the simple syrup, which is what we do at home, but if you like your drinks a little sweeter, the original recipes does call for 1 tsp in addition to the rest of the ingredients.