Old Fashioned week is the celebration of a vintage classic cocktail which always appears to be in style no matter what the occasion.
For decades, the Old Fashioned cocktail has held icon status among whisky aficionados and bartenders across the world. And what’s not to love? Traditional ingredients, tried and true combinations, and a name that unabashedly refuses to be modern.
We held a Q&A with our National Brand Ambassador Kieron Hall and resident cocktail mixologist. We put his knowledge to the test to see how much he really knew about the Old Fashioned cocktail. (Spoiler alert – he did not disappoint!)
What is Old Fashioned Week?
If there’s any cocktail in history that deserves its own week then it’s the Old Fashioned. It’s one of the first recorded cocktails and is a very important part of any classical bartenders’ arsenal. Old Fashioned week is an excuse to celebrate this great drink in any and all forms.
Are you a fan of the Old Fashioned Cocktail?
I love an Old Fashioned. It’s one of the first classics I ever learned to make and definitely the first one I learned to perfect. The great aspect of an Old Fashioned is that it’s simplistic in its parts… Sugar, Bitters, Spirit and Water are all you need, everything else is up to you. It’s an easy drink to make, but it’s a very difficult drink to make spectacular.
Do you have to use whisky to create an Old Fashioned?
The first iterations of the cocktail back in the very early 1800’s would have used Rye or Bourbon Whisky, mainly because they were the most available. Brandy can be used as a great substitute though, or rum. You could use any spirit to create an old fashioned really, but it usually lends itself best to the darker side of spirits.
Is there a certain type of whisky to use?
Typically it’s found in most cocktail bars today with a Bourbon base. For me it always depends on my mood. I love an Old fashioned with a Blended Whisky. Blended Whiskies usually have the best of all worlds and give you a great base to start from.
How would you create the perfect Old Fashioned?
I start off with a small sugar cube (I prefer to get the sweetness from the whisky rather than adding too much sugar), then douse it in a few healthy glugs of Bitters. For my bitters I usually stick with the classic ‘Angostura’ as it has a great base and is very readily available. But the bitters is a great way to mix with the flavour of your cocktail, some of my favourite Old Fashioned cocktails use ‘Abbots Bitters’, ‘Bobs Bitters’, ‘Black Walnut Bitters’. After muddling the sugar a little I like to add a swathe of orange peel and muddle it into the sugar, releasing the oils from the orange. Then I take my time with the mixing, 1 measure of good spirit and 2 cubes of ice, then stir it until the ice dissolves. Another measure of spirit, 2 more cubes and repeat. Taste it to see if you need to add anything else for balance or dilute it some more. Then top it with fresh ice and a clean swathe of orange. I like to squeeze my orange peel over the entire drink so you get all of the essential oils from the orange all over your hand, and it’s more multisensory.
What would be your top tip be when it comes to an Old Fashioned?
Experiment. There are literally thousands of combinations for an old fashioned, try a few different recipes, experiment with your bitters, your sugar, your spirit. Some of the combinations may be terrible, but there’s only one way to find out.
What types of twists can you put on this traditional recipe?
One of the most common ones I see in a lot of bars today is a Rum Re-Fashioned. Just taking a well-aged Dark Rum, usually an English or French style rum and subbing it in for your whisky. It adds great sweetness and often a nice spice element.
Are you going to be celebrating Old Fashioned Week?
I certainly will, possibly not for the entire week as I wouldn’t get anything done. But there will certainly be a couple of nights when I finish off my day with a good old fashioned and a book.
Can you recommend some other great whisky cocktails to try?
I’m a lover of a Whisky sour personally, but there are some incredible classic whisky cocktails worth a try. Rob Roys, Manhattans, Sazeracs, Juleps – and the list goes on.
For the simplest whisky cocktail to make at home I’ll leave you with the words of Winston Churchill. “The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learned to like it.”
We suggest you try re-creating this with the classic The ONE British Blended Whisky or if you want to spice it up we would recommend the new The ONE Limited Edition sherry Expression. This expression marks a fundamental shift in our whisky strategy at the Lakes – this is the first time we have bottled the ONE Sherry with no chill-filtration and at 46.6% abv. Going forward we will only bottle our whiskies at this level or above in order to give you a richer experience. In this expression, the ONE has been finished in PX Casks from Spain to add a layer of dried fruits and spice. Each bottle has been individually numbered as part of this limited edition release of only 5,500 bottles.