One of the joys of living in Kentucky is the easy and celebrated access to great bourbon, which is why it puzzles me that it took two years living in Louisville to try my first Old Fashioned. If you’re a fan of the show Mad Men, a drama that celebrates the influential advertising executives of the 1960s, you’re also familiar with lead exec Don Draper. He’s an intoxicating man that is for the most part intoxicated by many Old Fashioneds. Ahhh the days of three martini lunches and smoking on airplanes.
Don Draper is an elegant, charming, intelligent man that is at times both charismatic and mysterious. Don has a stiff temper but is still sort of sweet. He’s a lot like an Old Fashioned.
The first alleged use of the specific name “Old Fashioned” was for a Bourbon whiskey cocktail in the 1880s, at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club in Louisville, Kentucky. The recipe is said to have been invented by a bartender at that club, and popularized by a club member and bourbon distiller, Colonel James E. Pepper, who brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. The “Old Fashioned” was the favorite cocktail of President Harry S Truman and his wife Bess.
Way to go Kentucky! Upon first sip the bourbon hit me in a sweet but stiff kind of way. The kind that makes your lips tingle and your belly burn from the booze. I wasn’t sure if I could handle such a strong drink. But as I swirled my way down to the dissolved sugar and crushed cherries at the bottom, the drink got smoother and smoother. It was unique and I was intrigued.
Over the next few weeks I tried different varieties of the Old Fashioned. My boss from Wisconsin insisted that the Old Fashioned are much smoother when you substitute brandy instead of bourbon, which is common where he’s from. I learned that Old Fashioned can be ordered “sweet” with Sprite or “sour” which gives it more of a whiskey sour taste. I even tried it with infused orange bourbon. A drink this old has a lot of unique twists.
Having been a child of the 80s (and not the 1880s) the Old Fashioned is brand new to me. But if you’re ready to mix up your cocktail routine, get your Draper on with an Old Fashioned! Just don’t do so while smoking in an airplane.