November 18, 2016


Why the whisky Old Fashioned is the cocktail of the moment

In Good Spirits
By Joanne Sasvari

The Old Fashioned has been both great and terrible, fashionable and unfashionable. This winter, it is the cocktail of the moment.

For the longest time, the Old Fashioned was what your dad or granddad drank, possibly muddled with orange slices and cherries, or topped with soda. Then cool cocktailians fell for it, but only in its purist form of whisky, sugar, bitters and water, what was once known as a bittered sling. Now it seems that everyone loves the Old Fashioned all over again.

Credit Mad Men, perhaps—it was Don Draper’s favourite cocktail, after all. Or credit the versatility, balance and simple sipping pleasure of a true classic.

That’s why Prohibition, the sexy underground bar and lounge at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, launched Old Fashioned Wednesdays this fall. Each week, the lounge serves Old Fashioned specials made with premium whisky and a clever twist.

“We started with two basic Old Fashioneds,” says lead bartender Robyn Gray. “Last month, we were smoking an Old Fashioned. And this month we’re doing an Old Fashioned inside an ice globe. We’re calling it the Orb Fashioned.”

Bartenders love playing with the Old Fashioned because its simplicity makes it so versatile.

“The Old Fashioned is a bittered sling and it has four elements: bitters, sugar, water and spirit,” Gray says. “Sometimes we change the whisky. Sometimes we change the bitters. Sometimes we change the sugar. And sometimes we change the ice, like with the Orb Fashioned.”

For instance, he says, although the original 19th century recipe called for spicy rye whisky, you could use bourbon to add a fruity cherry-vanilla flavour or peated scotch for a smoky one. You could also make it with brandy or dark rum, even vodka.

What you can’t change is the Angostura bitters. After all, the bitters were the original point of the drink, which was created to help digestion.

“The whisky was just added to the bitters to make them more palatable,” Gray says. “It was supposed to be a vehicle to transport those bitters in a delicious way.”

He adds:  “Angostura is so relevant for people in an Old Fashioned. They recognize those flavours of cinnamon and clove. So we feel it’s important to be the backbone of the drink.”

Aside from that, you could replace the sugar with honey, maple syrup or a liqueur like orange curaçao. Or you could add chocolate or cherry bitters, muddle in some orange slices, if you must, or even switch up the ice you use.

“You can mix and match and play around and have fun with it,” Gray says. “It’s very simple, and everyone recognizes it and loves it.”


Old Fashioned Whisky Cocktail

  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • Splash of water
  • 3 hard dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz (60 mL) whisky (preferably rye or bourbon) 

Place sugar in the bottom of an Old Fashioned Glass. Add a drop or two of water and the bitters, then muddle it until it becomes a fine, syrupy paste. Add whisky and ice cubes. Stir until chilled and perfectly dilute—this could take five minutes or so. Garnish with lemon or orange peel, spritzing the essential oils over the drink before dropping it in. Serves 1



Remember: Whisky makes a great gift, especially for yourself. 

  1. Suntory Whisky Toki
    Why Japan is the next big thing in whisky. Light, bright, sweet and
    spicy, with notes of green apple,
    honey and ginger. $54.99
  2. Bruichladdich
    The Classic Laddie
    Floral nose with a hint of sea salt
    and candied citrus notes. A smooth, elegant, unpeated Scotch whisky. 
  3. Crown Royal Northern
    Harvest Rye
    Named 2016 World’s Whisky of the Year,
    this Canadian rye is sweet and fruity
    with baking spice flavours. $39.99

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