The Lament of Old Timer: History of the Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Lament of Old Timer: History of the Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Lament of Old Timer History of the Old Fashioned Cocktail


A Chilly Morning's Venting

On a brisk morning, a seasoned and irritable New Yorker, known as "Old Timer," found solace at his typewriter, unleashing his discontent in a letter to The Times' esteemed editor. This was no ordinary day; it marked the beginning of a new year in 1936. Old Timer's impassioned diatribe focused on the sacrilegious art of mixing drinks. As post-Repeal hangovers likely pounded in his head like an Underwood typewriter, he pondered the fate of beloved classics like the martini, the Manhattan, and, above all, the once-revered old-fashioned whiskey cocktail.


The Glorious Past

Old Timer reminisced about the golden days when bartenders embodied congeniality and empathy. With masterful precision, they moistened sugar with mystical Angostura bitters and dropped perfectly sized ice cubes into the mix. A miniature bar spoon added an artistic touch, and patrons had the privilege of pouring their bourbon from a bottle—all for a modest 15 cents or an irresistible two drinks for a quarter.


 The Modern Bane The modern era ushered in ex-speakeasy bartenders who discarded tradition in favor of powdered sugar and carbonic shortcuts. Dubious bitters and random-sized ice chunks replaced the sacred proportions of old. A veritable fruit compote—orange, lemon, pineapple, and cherry—crowded the glass. The grand finale included a precise measure of bar whisky, often a blend, and a glass rod for stirring. The price? A jaw-dropping 35 to 50 cents. Old Timer deemed it sacrilege and extortion.


Divergent Paths Old Timer eloquently outlined the two divergent paths leading to this venerable concoction. The austere path remained true to the essence of the original, with liquor sweetened and seasoned but without frivolous adornments. On the other end, the flashy, extravagant path embraced a veritable Carmen Miranda headdress, featuring a long Sprite spritz instead of the modest carbonated water of yesteryear. Old Timer lamented the sad state of affairs.


                  The Old-Fashioned Cocktail: A Timeless Libation

A Timeless Libation

The old-fashioned cocktail, an iconic blend of masculine allure and nostalgic femininity, sits at the heart of a vast spectrum of delights and innovations. With foundational simplicity and remarkable adaptability, it goes beyond mere gastronomy, embracing ideological beliefs. Bars use it as a platform to make bold statements, and each bartender leaves their unique mark on the drink. For discerning drinkers, it becomes a personal litmus test of their philosophy of fun.

My Preferred Rye Variant

Embracing the warmth of rye whiskey, I savor a delightful blend of Oak and Eden with the spire aged in the bottle,  while exploring this fall's cocktail books. Each glass becomes a lens to discern the essence of every concoction—a journey of flavor and history.

The Mr. Boston

Official Bartender's Guide Among the revered tomes, the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide: 75th Anniversary Edition stands as a treasure curated by Jonathan Pogash with contributions from esteemed mixologists like Rick Rodgers. Originally a promotional tool, the book now serves as a wet-bar reference, akin to revered classics.


Honoring History and Adapting

The guide celebrates the old-fashioned whiskey cocktail's rich history, connecting it to the earliest recorded definition of a cocktail from 1806. It honors the simplicity we now associate with the Old-Fashioned. Embracing adaptation, the book showcases various iterations, paying homage to historical roots while exploring new horizons.


Cherries, Oranges, and Aesthetics

Debates surround the role of cherries and oranges. The book remains open-minded about oranges, offering techniques to capture their essence. However, it takes a conservative stance on cherries, suggesting them only as garnishes. Nevertheless, some embrace vibrant vermilion messes of cherries for a touch of feminine allure.


A Timeless Touchstone

In the ever-expanding world of cocktails, the old-fashioned remains a constant touchstone, reminding us of endless possibilities and boundless artistic expression. Each glass bears witness to the legacy of a bygone era that still resonates in the hearts of discerning drinkers today. Let us savor this tantalizing journey into the world of the old-fashioned cocktail—a delicious fusion of flavors and history.

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