Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

maggiethecat

The Old Fashioned Cocktail: The Topic

Recommended Posts

But the Old-Fashioned is a Cock-tail, and some Cock-tails call for Curacao, so I stand by my point; adding a dash or two of Curacao does not take it away from being an Old-Fashioned Cocktail. It may not be the drink to please everyone, but it works...

Uh... that's a false syllogism, Adam. Not that I think there's anything wrong with a dash of curacao or maraschino in a Cock-tail, but I think Sam's point is that, at that point, it becomes a Cock-tail (fancy, improved, what have you), but not an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Uh... that's a false syllogism, Adam. Not that I think there's anything wrong with a dash of curacao or maraschino in a Cock-tail, but I think Sam's point is that, at that point, it becomes a Cock-tail (fancy, improved, what have you), but not an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail.

An Old-Fashioned is a Cock-tail. Lest we forget that we're not talking about a specific recipe here, but a family of drinks consisting of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. A dash (or two) of curacao doesn't change the drink in such a way that it isn't part of the same family.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Uh... that's a false syllogism, Adam. Not that I think there's anything wrong with a dash of curacao or maraschino in a Cock-tail, but I think Sam's point is that, at that point, it becomes a Cock-tail (fancy, improved, what have you), but not an Old-Fashioned Cock-tail.

An Old-Fashioned is a Cock-tail. Lest we forget that we're not talking about a specific recipe here, but a family of drinks consisting of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. A dash (or two) of curacao doesn't change the drink in such a way that it isn't part of the same family.

Do we need a Venn diagram? Every old-fashioned is a cocktail, but not every cocktail is an old-fashioned. If you start adding things to an old fashioned, even though they be perfectly fine cocktailian ingredients, it ceases to be an old fashioned. Your argument is the very definition of a false sylogism, as mkayahara mentioned.

Cock-tails may contain curacao. The old-fashioned is a cock-tail. Therefore, curacao may go in an old-fashioned.

All men are mortal. Socrates is mortal. Therefore, all men are Socrates.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do we need a Venn diagram? Every old-fashioned is a cocktail, but not every cocktail is an old-fashioned. If you start adding things to an old fashioned, even though they be perfectly fine cocktailian ingredients, it ceases to be an old fashioned. Your argument is the very definition of a false sylogism, as mkayahara mentioned.

I didn't really want to go down this road but it looks like we'll have to... ;)

Anyway, by definition, what is an Old Fashioned?

And likewise, what is a Cock-tail?

And where is this written rule that says that adding a dash of Curacao stops it from being an Old-Fashioned or a Cock-tail?

I am fully aware that the likelihood was that the Cock-tail (which the Old-Fashioned is based on - the first reference to Old-Fashioned is Old-Fashioned Cocktail IIRC) started off as just spirit, sugar, water and dashes of bitters with no other dashes of liqueur (in this case Curacao), but I think we're in an age where we can't possibly say that if you do add a dash of Curacao to an Old-Fashioned that it ceases to become such and should now be termed a Fancy Cock-tail, Improved Cock-tail, or something else.

If you strip it down to its bare bones the addition of Curacao actually ticks a couple of boxes from the spirit-sugar-water-bitters definition, by way of the fact that it is technically a spirit and it is sweet.

The way I see it, there is no strict definition for these two drinks (which are the same thing to me, one has only disappeared from use because of the fact it is now used in reference to all mixed drinks) and neither does there need to be. The definition is simple, a spiritous base, a sweetening agent, a bittering agent and some water to soften and marry the ingredients. If you want to add a dash or two of Curacao, please do, it won't make for a lesser drink just a different drink.

Drinks evolve, so long as we understand where they come from and why they've changed then let it be. We can all be pedants and bring up written references to back up your side of the debate but there's typically another reference that will debunk your claim and leave it down to interpretation and an understanding of the cards laid out on the table. In this case and in my opinion, the Old-Fashioned is just a terminology for an older style of drink, the Cock-tail. The Cock-tail definition as we understand it is relatively simple but there is a little grey area where it's not as black and white as some may wish it to be.

And anyway, the most important factor is whether it tastes good or not, everything else is secondary...


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you want to add a dash or two of Curacao, please do, it won't make for a lesser drink just a different drink.

Never made a qualitative argument. If it's different, it deserves (and has in fact received) different nomenclature. I believe that Curacao would make it "fancy", specifically.

Drinks evolve, so long as we understand where they come from and why they've changed then let it be.

With any other drink, maybe, but if one truly understands why it's called an "old fashioned," I can't believe they'd argue for expanding the scope of the classification. The Old Fashioned was the old timer's reaction to all the abuse that the cock-tail was receiving at the hands of those who couldn't not mess with a good thing. The very reason we have a drink called the "old fashioned" today is that people had this same disagreement more than 100 years ago about what constituted cock-tail. If you insist on calling things "old fashioned" that aren't, we'll just have to come up with a new word for it...it's extremely inefficient.

And anyway, the most important factor is whether it tastes good or not, everything else is secondary...

Then you shouldn't mind calling drinks that don't fit the definition of an Old Fashioned something other than "Old Fashioned"...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With any other drink, maybe, but if one truly understands why it's called an "old fashioned," I can't believe they'd argue for expanding the scope of the classification.

I'm not asking to expand anything, as asked already;

- By definition, what is an Old Fashioned?

- And likewise, what is a Cock-tail?

- And where is this written rule that says that adding a dash of Curacao stops it from being an Old-Fashioned or a Cock-tail?

At the end of the day, they are the same thing. The definition of which is spirit-sugar-water-bitters. The Old-Fashioned being no more than a term or phrase that was used when talking about the Cock-tail and ended up becoming a name for it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not asking to expand anything, as asked already;

You're not trying to include drinks with curacao within the category of those called "old-fashioned"? If you are proposing a drink with curacao as the only spirit, I'll concede that a Curacao Old Fashioned exists. But, if you're suggesting that a drink with some spirit, sugar, bitters, water AND curacao would properly be called <Spirit> Old-Fashioned and not Fancy <Spirit> Cocktail, I believe you are wrong, and you're trying to expand the definition of what constitutes an old fashioned.

- By definition, what is an Old Fashioned?

- And likewise, what is a Cock-tail?

- And where is this written rule that says that adding a dash of Curacao stops it from being an Old-Fashioned or a Cock-tail?

At the end of the day, they are the same thing. The definition of which is spirit-sugar-water-bitters. The Old-Fashioned being no more than a term or phrase that was used when talking about the Cock-tail and ended up becoming a name for it.

Yes, old-fashioned was coined specifically to refer to a bygone state of cocktail. Which is why the idea of evolving the definition is preposterous. At some singular point in time, spirit, sugar, bitters and water defined them both. (ETA: On second thought, this is surely wrong. The very need for the term "old fashioned" implies that cocktail no longer sufficed...meaning that "cock-tail" and "old fashioned" probably did not simultaneous mean the same thing except in retrospect.) But, Cock-tail was evolving and has since become a cesspool, while the Old Fashioned is "a liquid plea for a saner, quieter, slower life".

If properly made, a Whiskey Cock-tail and a Whiskey Old Fashioned should be exactly the same drink. By their very nomenclature, however, I'd argue that the maker is far more likely to take liberties with the Whiskey Cock-tail, and that's exactly what's happened over past 100+ years. Suggesting that curacao can rightly belong in an old fashioned only pushes us further into the muck...toward needing another new way to order spirit, sugar, bitters and water.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're not trying to include drinks with curacao within the category of those called "old-fashioned"? If you are proposing a drink with curacao as the only spirit, I'll concede that a Curacao Old Fashioned exists. But, if you're suggesting that a drink with some spirit, sugar, bitters, water AND curacao would properly be called <Spirit> Old-Fashioned and not Fancy <Spirit> Cocktail, I believe you are wrong, and you're trying to expand the definition of what constitutes an old fashioned.

No, I'm merely suggesting that the spirit-sugar-water-bitters definition isn't as strict as some people are making out. The Old-Fashioned wasn't a reaction to the cocktail recipes Jerry Thomas had in his book (with some including a dash or two of Curacao) but to other drinks that followed.

The matter of fact was that the Cock-tail had a purpose as a drink, maybe a dash or two of Curacao made it more palatable. Add in the fact that Curacao is a spirit (and the definition doesn't say single spirit), it's also sweet (helping out the sugar factor) and it can have some bitter characteristics then...

Yes, old-fashioned was coined specifically to refer to a bygone state of cocktail. Which is why the idea of evolving the definition is preposterous. At some singular point in time, spirit, sugar, bitters and water defined them both. But, Cock-tail was evolving and has since become a cesspool, while the Old Fashioned is "a liquid plea for a saner, quieter, slower life".

The definition is not being evolved and it's not exactly black and white. The fact that it's a single definition from 1806 that isn't particularly clear-cut says a lot to me...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me an Old-Fashioned differs from a Cock-Tail with the inclusion of a twist of citrus peel: a quiet admission that bartenders can't not tinker with their drinks. That's how I read the mythology, anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me an Old-Fashioned differs from a Cock-Tail with the inclusion of a twist of citrus peel: a quiet admission that bartenders can't not tinker with their drinks. That's how I read the mythology, anyway.

But then there are Cock-tail recipes (in Jerry Thomas particularly) that have citrus peel and this was before the Old-Fashioned was even a thought. I don't think there needs to be a difference between the two.

Also intrigued to know the thoughts - of those who are staunchly defending the Old-Fashioned having no Curacao - when it comes to an Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Do they believe that is an Old Fashioned or not?


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, wow, you guys must have a lot of time on your hands, I'd hate to see what would happen if the cocktail you were discussing had more than 3 ingredients. Or if politics came up.

:laugh:

Right. If someone asks for an old-fashioned, these days they generally mean a Whisky Cocktail on the rocks. In almost every case, they want Bourbon.

In both the places I work, our house old fashioned is an old fashioned old-fashioned: only spirits, bitters, sweetener, citrus peel, and ice.

However, when I did the BAR Advanced course, and made an old-fashioned in the practical part of the exam, after presenting said drink to my examiner, I was reminded that I should really inquire in some fashion of the customer. Not just what spirit they want, but to somehow determine the manner in which they want the drink prepared. A lot of customers do have different expectations about what constitutes an old-fashioned: Muddled Fruit, Cherries, soft drinks, etc.

For me, I think there is plenty of variability in the 4 components of the old-fashioned: spirit, sweetener, bitters, and citrus garnish, that I don't think any elaboration beyond that should be included in the category of the "Old-Fashioned Cocktail". At least, I would not expect anything beyond that to be included when I ordered an Old-Fashioned. Heck, most people are shocked that the Old-Fashioned can be made with anything other than Whiskey.

For example, in the Savoy Cocktail Book, a Whiskey Old-Fashioned bittered with Fernet is called a King Cole Cocktail, not an Old-Fashioned. Quite delicious, I might add. The same cocktail, a few years later, served up, became the Toronto.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...]

Also intrigued to know the thoughts - of those who are staunchly defending the Old-Fashioned having no Curacao - when it comes to an Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Do they believe that is an Old Fashioned or not?

Why wouldn't the Oaxacan Old Fashioned be an old fashioned?

It's just tequila, mezcal, sweetener, bitters, and orange peel, as far as I know.

Recipe - Oaxacan Old-Fashioned (NY Times Link)

1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila

1/2 ounce mezcal

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 dash Angostura bitters

Strip of orange peel with pith, one inch wide.

1. Combine liquids in a cocktail shaker with a generous handful of ice. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.

2. Hold a lighted match over drink in one hand and orange peel in other hand, with orange side facing flame and about an inch away. Carefully and quickly squeeze orange peel until oils spark. Put out match and drop peel into cocktail.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

However, when I did the BAR Advanced course, and made an old-fashioned in the practical part of the exam, after presenting said drink to my examiner, I was reminded that I should really inquire in some fashion of the customer. Not just what spirit they want, but to somehow determine the manner in which they want the drink prepared. A lot of customers do have different expectations about what constitutes an old-fashioned: Muddled Fruit, Cherries, soft drinks, etc.

For me, I think there is plenty of variability in the 4 components of the old-fashioned: spirit, sweetener, bitters, and citrus garnish, that I don't think any elaboration beyond that should be included in the category of the "Old-Fashioned Cocktail". At least, I would not expect anything beyond that to be included when I ordered an Old-Fashioned. Heck, most people are shocked that the Old-Fashioned can be made with anything other than Whiskey.

To be fair you don't need to do the BAR course to know that you should confirm what it is the guest wants because, as you say, the drink is very much down to individual preference. However, that's not really the issue at the heart of this debate.

As I've already said, I wholly agree with you about the variability between the definition of Cock-tail/Old-Fashioned, and within that variable a dash or two of Curacao more than qualifies. They agreed 150+ years ago so...

Why wouldn't the Oaxacan Old Fashioned be an old fashioned?

Judging by the most recent comments in reply to me in this thread I'd expect them to say that it wasn't a true Old-Fashioned because, well, it's not Old-Fashioned. ;)


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One note on execution, a lot of bars are serving drinks like this on big, very cold ice.

I find, depending on the proof of the spirits, that I appreciate the drink being briefly stirred with cracked or cube ice before being poured over the big ice.

You just don't get enough dilution or chill fast enough with the big rocks. If you're using spirits over 80 proof, those first sips will be quite the shock. Well, unless the guest in question is used to high test.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yikes indeed. back and forth, back and forth. I think the problem here is that there are two ways of looking at drink families in play here, the historical and the mixological. While these tend to overlap quite a bit, the alignment is never perfect, leading to off-kilter debates like this one.

Historically, there's the cocktail/cock-tail. This evolved over time, roughly thus:

ca. 1800: spirits, water, sugar, bitters; stirred

ca. 1840: spirits, syrup or sugar + splash of water, bitters, ice; rolled or stirred; served with ice

ca. 1843: option of adding absinthe

ca. 1860: spirits, syrup or sugar + splash of water, bitters, ice, lemon twist; shaken or stirred; served up or with ice

+ option of adding curacao

+ " " " " " sugar rim

+ " " " " " splash of lemon juice

These three options prove, for some, to be a trigger-point, forcing the name of the drink to be qualified as "fancy" or changed to "crusta." But for the general run of drinkers they don't bring the drink to the threshold of name-change. In other words, they're modifications, not alterations.

Then:

ca. 1870: + option of adding vermouth

But this addition of vermouth proves to be a trigger-point, forcing the creation of an "Old-Fashioned" cocktail category, where the purists get their say. This is hinted at in print in the 1860s, discussed by 1880 and first appears in a cocktail book in 1888 (Theodore Proulx's Bartender's Manual). This is analogous to what happened to the Gin Martini in the 1980s, or the Mint Julep after the Civil War, where the most reductive, narrow definition of the drink was held up as the original standard, whereas the original drink being evoked allowed much more latitude, as it had yet to become a marker of identity or a subject of ideology.

This "Old-Fashioned" style cocktail then undergoes evolution of its own: by 1916, the garnish has gotten a little more fancy. By 1933, the drink has absorbed the fruit-garnished Whiskey Toddy, making the muddled Old-Fashioned of 1940s-1960s fame. (Then, of course, come the new purists, and . . . .)

There's a period, roughly 1870-1905, when the original cocktail and the Old-Fashioned overlap; when you could order a "whiskey Cocktail" in a bar and expect in most instances to get a shaken blend of whiskey (or gin, or brandy), syrup, bitters, perhaps with a splash of curacao or even maraschino and a dash of absinthe, strained and served up with a twist. You might have to talk to your bartender a bit first, though.

As for the mixological Old-Fashioned:

The original cocktail can also be defined as a composition of spirits, sweetener, bittering agent, diluent (that, as Wikipedia informs me, is the correct word for 'diluting agent') and optional citrus oil float.

Each of these components can, of course, be viewed prismatically, so to speak: the spirit element can be unitary--whiskey--or composite--tequila and mezcal. The same goes for any of the other components. Ingredients can easily do double duty, e.g., functioning as both bittering agent and sweetener.

If I had more time I would have made this much more concise. I probably could have just said "we're arguing at cross purposes" and left it at that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, it's something I'd never heard before.

Scaffa? I seem to recall seeing this (maybe in Duffy?) classified as spirit/liqueur/bitters, served mixed but unchilled and undiluted.

Yes, that's it exactly.

Ahem . . .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I'll see if I can reignite things, Dave.

The reason I would argue that an Oaxaca Old Fashioned shouldn't be technically considered an Old Fashioned is that you couldn't order it in a bar that didn't have prior knowledge of the recipe and receive anything close to what you were looking for.

Tequila Old Fashioned, you know what goes in it...maybe you specify you want them to use a sugar cube not syrup, or what type of bitters, but the constituent parts are defined to anyone with a modicum of knowledge. '<Spirit> Old Fashioned' tells you all you needed to know to make it...


Edited by KD1191 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, let's say you went into a bar and said you'd had a drink called a "Oaxacan Old-Fashioned" and told the bartender that it contained Tequila.

Perhaps the bartender would think, "Huh, that's an odd name for a Tequila Old-Fashioned, spirits distilled from fermented Agave in Oaxaca can't technically be called 'Tequila'."

"Oh, but they do make a lot of tasty Mezcal in Oaxaca..."


Edited by eje (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, let's say you went into a bar and said you'd had a drink called a "Oaxacan Old-Fashioned" and told the bartender that it contained Tequila.

Perhaps the bartender would think, "Huh, that's an odd name for a Tequila Old-Fashioned, spirits distilled from fermented Agave in Oaxaca can't technically be called 'Tequila'."

"Oh, but they do make a lot of tasty Mezcal in Oaxaca..."

Well, I'm speaking from a very antiquated place, and as Dave says, I think we're arguing at cross purposes...but, if the bartender knows that "spirits distilled from fermented Agave in Oaxaca can't technically be called 'Tequila'" then why would they put any in? Even if you were emphatic about it when ordering, what are the chances they get the proportions of Tequila/Mezcal close to right, or think to use agave syrup (assuming they even have any...) to sweeten the drink?


Edited by KD1191 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What's the purpose of this discussion? To determine how best to order a drink? To clarify the muddy, muddy waters of history? To create a taxonomy of drink types that can stand the rigors of set theory, logical analysis, and the ghost of Jerry Thomas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What's the purpose of this discussion?

Discussions require a purpose? Oops, here I thought I was just bored at work...I sometimes forgot that Philosophy majors should only speak when spoken to.

To determine how best to order a drink?

Doubtful.

To clarify the muddy, muddy waters of history?

Depends...practically, it'd probably be a waste of time, as Dave will just show up and set us straight. Though I do enjoy etymology.

To create a taxonomy of drink types that can stand the rigors of set theory, logical analysis, and the ghost of Jerry Thomas?

I like this one best.

That's a good one, Dan. I'm also awfully fond of this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What's the purpose of this discussion?

I'd say it's pretty easy to work out should you have the time to read the last couple of pages. ;)

Well, I'm speaking from a very antiquated place...

Which is the problem with your argument as history tells us that an Old-Fashioned is a Cock-tail and that (as far as we're aware) a Cock-tail consists of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. So that's the historical stand-point covered.

Taking all that into account and then looking at this family of drinks from the other side of the coin it'd be impossible to argue that a drink consisting of *base spirit, **sugar, ***bitters and ****water is not an Old-Fashioned Cocktail. That's the mixological stand-point ticked.

Other than that we can apply our own logic and taste to what we expect from an Old-Fashioned Cocktail...

As I've been saying all along you're applying a strict definition to a style of drink that doesn't have a strict definition. History tells us that, and our understanding of the drink from a mixological standing also backs that up.

*Tequila & Mezcal or Brandy & Curacao

**Agave or sugar syrup

***Orange Bitters or Boker's Bitters

****Ice


Edited by evo-lution (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Taking all that into account and then looking at this family of drinks from the other side of the coin it'd be impossible to argue that a drink consisting of *base spirit, **sugar, ***bitters and ****water is not an Old-Fashioned Cocktail.

Which bring us back to Sam's question:

2 oz rye whiskey, 2 oz sweet vermouth, 1 tsp maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes bitters. On ice in a rocks glass. Old Fashioned?

Edit: To which I'd add: *2 oz. gin, **/***1 oz. sweet vermouth, **1 tsp. maraschino and ***2 dashes bitters, stirred over ****ice and strained = Old-Fashioned?


Edited by mkayahara (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×