The Old Fashioned [Deep Dive]

  • One Big Ice Cube
  • 1/2 Demerara sugar cube
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2-4 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
  • 1/4 oz cold water
  • 2 oz. high proof bourbon (ideally, Old Grand Dad 114)
  • Orange peel
  • Luxardo Maraschino cherry

The Fabulous Jenn, our most loyal bar buddy, sadly moved from our town of Lexington (Massachusetts, not the Bourbon drenched Kentucky) back to Ohio, not the ideal state for fancy drinkin’.

To ensure that Jenn didn’t completely starve for want of a quality cocktail, Lorri & I gifted her our first official “Compleat Mixologist’s Survival Kit”, complete with my favorite best iceball mold, Koriko shakers, mixing glass, coupes and rocks glasses, bitters, Luxardo Maraschino cherries, etc.


The one bottle of liquor included in the set was our trusty Old Grand Dad 114, still our reigning champ for Bourbon Old Fashioned. I’ve probably made 200-300 of those over the years (a not unsubstantial percentage of them for Jenn herself!) and I promised that I’d document its making here in my blog so she could recreate it over in the Buckeye State.

  1. Prepare One Big Ice Cube, preferably two inches, round and clear (for the longest lasting cube with minimal impact of taste). After buying four different clear ice molds, the best was the cheapest. There are always about 5 or 6 identical ones (there must be one wholesaler  that sells to many vendors) on Amazon ranging in price from $35-50. As of this writing, THIS ONE is the cheapest but prices fluctuate rapidly.
  2. In a mixing glass, add One Half Demerara Sugar Cube – yes, it’s stupidly hard to measure out one half sugar cube, so I almost always make two Old Fashioneds at a time. You COULD make your drink faster by using granulated Demerara (especially if you run it through a blender to make it super fine) or even demerara simple syrup, but half the fun of the Old Fashioned is going through all the steps and savoring the process
  3. 4 dashes Angostura Bitters – I’m always appalled at the huge variation in the size of dashes coming from different bottles, so I’ve put my bitters in dropper bottles with graduated droppers and settled on 0.1 ml as the size of a dash
  4. 2-4 dashes Regans Orange Bitters #6 – It’s supposed to be ONE dash, but I like my Old Fashioned to be on the drier, cirtus-ier side, so I gleefully overdo the Regans. Sue me.
  5. 1/4 Ounce Cold Water – Initially seemed stupid to me, but I’ve come to appreciate how a little water opens up the bourbon, ESPECIALLY if you’re using very high proof bourbon like OGD 114
  6. Muddle! A spiky-ended muddler will break up the cube faster but a flat/rounded ended muddler will do a better grinding up the grains of sugar (like a mortar and pestle). Keep going until it doesn’t feel TOTALLY gritty, and enjoy the aromas while you’re muddling.
  7. 2 oz high proof bourbon
  8. Muddle some more!  Wait, why didn’t we just put in the bourbon before we muddled the first time – wouldn’t that end up with the same result, only faster? Well yeah, of course … but you’d miss the aromas of muddling a sugar cube into a fine, bitters soaked paste! Muddle until you’ve only got a few grains left in the bottom of the mixing glass.
  9. Add Ice and stir with a barspoon – Some recipes call for 30 turns but that’s just silly because there are so many variables. I stick a Thermopen (or a cheap but equivalent substitute) in there occasionally and wait for the temp to go below 32 degrees Fahrenheit/0 degrees Celsius. That’s the point at which it’s diluted AND cold enough to my liking. Don’t worry if you go below 32 degrees – the contents are pretty near an equilibrium which it’ll hold for some time so it’s unlikely that you’ll overdilute by much.
  10. Put your One Big Ice Cube in a frozen rocks glass and strain the contents of your mixing glass over the cube. You’re supposed to use a Julep Strainer but I can’t figure out why. Those things are totally unwieldy , so I just use the biggest Hawthorne strainer Ive got around
  11. Peel a large orange peel over the rocks glass, using your devastatingly effective and dirt cheap Kuhn-Rikon peeler (always hand wash and immediately dry the blade – yes, I hate tools I can’t throw into the dishwasher too but I make an exception for this little guy).
  12. Flame the orange peel  with a match (let the chemicias on the end burn off first) or in my case, a creme brulee torch (hold it far enough so that you’re using hte tip of the flame – any closer and the combustion will be incomplete and you’ll get nasty butane odors). We do this because it loosens up any wax on the peel, making it easier to get the oils out of the peel.
  13. Express the peel over the drink –  If you’re looking to make a show of it, express it first over a flame so you get the little fireball.
  14. Wipe the peel over the lip of the glass
  15. Twist the peel and drop into the glass –  Yeah, this is overkill, but I did warn you that citrusy Old-Fashioneds are my jam (short of muddling oranges and cherries, which I’ll not shame you for liking but will say is a very different drink)
  16. Run a cocktail pick through a rinsed off Luxardo Maraschino cherry (the syrup is so sweet and thick that it stains an otherwise lovely looking drink, especially if you’re using the super clear ice ball) and lay into the drink.

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