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There is something about an old-fashioned That kindles a cardiac glow; It is soothing and soft and impassioned Like a lyric by Swinburne or Poe. There is something about an old-fashioned When dusk has enveloped the sky, And it may be the ice, Or the pineapple slice, But I strongly suspect it's the rye. An excerpt from "A Drink with Something in it" by Ogdan Nash.
I agree with Mr. Nash – “there is something about an old-fashioned.” We Kentucky girls love our bourbon – and of all the bourbon cocktails, I think the old-fashioned is probably my favorite. On a hot summer night, it’s hard to beat this boozy concoction of bourbon, crushed ice, and fresh fruit. Personally, I prefer an orange slice and a few fresh cherries to a pineapple slice though. While many make this cocktail with only a twist or maraschino cherries, my summertime old-fashioned cocktail is all about the fresh fruit (especially the cherries) and crushed ice. That’s what gives it the summertime feel. I start making these as soon as cherries show up in markets and continue all season. On hot nights, we like to lounge on our patio or deck and sip these icy cocktails to keep ourselves cool.
Note on the Perfect Summertime Old-Fashioned Cocktail
An old-fashioned is a simple stiff drink. Whiskey, a bit of sugar and bitters, some sort of fruit garnish, and ice. Some folks like a splash of soda water too – but not me. For this summertime old-fashioned cocktail, I go a bit non-traditional by using fresh cherries and lots of crushed ice. Here are a few notes on ingredients:
The Booze: Old-Fashioned cocktails are typically made with rye whiskey or bourbon. What is the difference? It basically comes down to the mix of grains used or the “mash bill” – the mix of corn, malted barley, rye, and/or wheat. Bourbon requires a mash bill of at least 51 percent corn while rye whiskey has a mash bill of at least 51 percent rye. What does this mean for flavor? Bourbon’s corn-heavy mash results in a sweeter full-bodied flavor while rye whiskey is often described as spicy. There are also high-rye bourbons (i.e., Four Roses Small Batch). Confused yet? It’s actually not that complicated. Many traditional bourbons are made from a mash that is around 70 percent corn and 15 percent rye – so the corn is reduced some (but still over 51 percent) and the rye is increased. If you want to read more, here is a more detailed article on rye versus bourbon.
Personally, I typically opt for bourbon for my old-fashioneds. Some of my favorite options are Bulliet bourbon whiskey, Four Roses Small Batch, Woodford Reserve, or Makers Mark – all Kentucky bourbons. I think Bulliet is the best value buy so that is my go-to choice. Bulliet also makes a rye whiskey that I like. Here are a few more detailed articles on the best bourbon for old-fashioned cocktails from ofWhiskeyandWords and tastingtable.
The Fruit: I make this cocktail with an orange slice and fresh cherries – at least 2 per cocktail. For the oranges, I like the cara cara or navel variety. For the cherries, I use sweet cherries such as Bing cherries.
The Sugar: A traditional old-fashioned cocktail is made with a sugar cube but I prefer simple syrup. You can also just use a teaspoon of sugar. I’ve tried maple syrup too and like that as well.
Summertime Old-Fashioned Cocktail FAQ
Old-fashioneds are typically served in short wide-mouthed glasses referred to as rocks glasses, lowballs, or even “old-fashioned” glasses. These glasses are generally sized to hold a 6 to 8-ounce cocktail. I’ve included a few of my favorite old-fashioned glasses below the recipe.
Not really. You won’t need a shaker, strainer, or anything too fancy. A cocktail muddler is the best tool for muddling fruit but you can always use the handle of a wooden spoon in a pinch.
Bourbon is a whiskey that meets some specific requirements. It has to be made from a mash bill that is at least 51 percent corn. It must be aged in new charred oak barrels and it may be no higher than 160 proof (80 percent alcohol by volume). So bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon.
A boozy cocktail to keep you cool on a hot summer night!
- simple syrup, 1 to 2 teaspoons
- 2 to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
- 1 orange slice
- 2 fresh cherries, halved and pitted
- 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
- crushed ice
- soda water (optional)
- Add the simple syrup and bitters to your rocks glass. Swirl to mix and coat the glass.
- Add the orange slice and cherries. Gently muddle the fruit into the sugar and bitters mixture. Don’t pulverize it. You just want to break it apart a bit to distribute the juice.
- Fill the glass with ice – about two-thirds full is what I aim for. Pour the bourbon over the ice and give it a quick stir.
If the drink is too strong for you, add a splash of soda water or more ice.
Here are some classic old-fashioned cocktail glass choices – the fourth is an unbreakable plastic option that’s great for summer patios and parties. I’ve also included a cocktail muddler.