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The earliest version of the old-fashioned dates from the first decade of the 1800's, although then it was called a bittered sling. It was basically an old-fashioned sans fruit (spirits, bitters, water and sugar). Over time it became common to add some liqueur, such as Cointreau or absinthe. By the 1860's cocktails had increased in complexity and people who wanted a simpler cocktail from simpler times ordered their cocktails, "old-fashioned". Fifteen years later (give or take a couple years), in 1880 the "old-fashioned" had become a drink rather than a method. There were regional preferences for the base liquor, most used bourbon but around Chicago people liked rye and in Wisconsin the go to substitute was brandy. The now typical garnishes of an orange slice and a maraschino cherry are additions from the 1930's and muddling an old fashioned didn't become the norm until the 1990's. That said, this is a "classic" old-fashioned, if you consider 1990's classic.

  • 1 sugar cube (about a teaspoon or 4 grams) 
  • 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices (one for garnish) 
  • 2 maraschino cherries (one for garnish)
  • 1 strip of lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 oz. bourbon (or rye, blended whiskey, etc.)
  • club soda or water (optional)
Put the sugar cube in a chilled old-fashioned glass and soak it with the bitters. Add the orange slice, cherry, and lemon zest. Muddle the contents of the glass until the sugar has been dissolved by the juices of the fruit. Fill the glass with ice. Add the bourbon and give it a good stir. Top the glass off with water or club soda, or don't. Garnish with remaining slice of orange and cherry.