The Old Fashioned has become exactly what its name implies: dated, tired and old. While Mad Men mania invigorated the stirred and strong sipper a few years back, the drink has since lost its luster once again. But that doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. To breathe new life into the antiquated cocktail, try swapping out the standard rye whiskey base for a variety of different spirits. From an Old Fashioned made with mezcal and reposado tequila, to a version made with aged gin, these four takes on the classic highlight the simplicity and greatness inherent to an Old Fashioned, while modernizing it. Here, four recipes that prove the Old Fashioned can be new again.
4 Ways to Make an Old Fashioned with Mezcal, Gin and More
A variation on the Oaxacan Old Fashioned—a nouveau classic created in 2007 at New York’s Death & Co by bartender Phil Ward—this smoky take adds Bittermens piquant mole bitters to the mix. With measures of both mezcal and reposado tequila at the base, this Old Fashioned has a smoky, savory edge and woodsy depth. Give it a try if a standard Old Fashioned is a bit too light and sweet for you.
Before the Great French Wine Blight in the late 19th century (when aphids destroyed much of France’s grapes) rum and Cognac reigned supreme in American bars—not whiskey. Drinks like the Mint Julep and the Old Fashioned (which was more of a New Fashioned at the time) were served with a healthy measure of French Cognac. To replicate the original cocktail (which, oddly enough, is still the most common way to make the drink in Wisconsin), we created this recipe. Made with brandy (or Cognac), a rich simple syrup (or a gomme syrup), and Angostura bitters, this classic cocktail is regal, rich and decadently delicious. For the best results, we recommend using an overproof Cognac like Louis Royer Force 53, a higher end Cognac like Hine, or any craft, American brandy like Copper & King.
While many bartenders (and Old Fashioned drinkers) argue that an Old Fashioned should always be made with rye whiskey, this variation uses a measure of sweet and sassy bourbon as its base. A combination of Angostura bitters and orange bitters gives the drink a hit of aromatic baking spice and bright fruitiness, while the oaky, vanilla heavy flavors of bourbon round the drink out and give it depth. This cocktail is so delightful that it can be sipped any time of year.
Using herbaceous gin at the base, this variation on the Old Fashioned is lighter and more refreshing than its whiskey counterpart. With a honey syrup in place of the traditional sugar cube and a hefty dash of orange bitters, it’s floral and rich, with a long, long finish that will stay with you. To retain the depth and spice of the original cocktail, use a heavier, aged gin like Ransom’s Old Tom, Barr Hill’s Tom Cat or Frey’s Barrel Finished gin.