If you do even the most casual of research, the title “Old Fashioned” can be applied to a list of drinks as long as your arm.
Some include the makings of a fruit cocktail to rival a Hawaiian hotel Mai-tai. Some are splashed with soda water and twists of this and that. Over the years as things have progressed in drink culture the “Old Fashioned” has become more of an expression of the cocktail than a recipe itself.
Even the description of an Old Fashioned is vague enough to cover an entire range of drinks. made by muddling dissolved sugar with bitters then adding alcohol, such as whiskey or brandy, and a twist of citrus rind.
Without even having to nit pick you have an open ended listing for the sugar, the main spirit and the type of citrus. The only core components here are sugar and muddling.
The Dr. Cocktail recipe I snagged from my copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails doesn’t even get into amounts it simply decries the rather mishmash nature of the drink up to present and then exhorts the reader to make it as he selects which is 2 dashes angostura bitters, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, a few drops of water , a broad swathe of orange peel and a good rye or bourbon.
I made this version myself and I can say that it isn’t bad. I used Regans Orange Bitters and the new bottle of Burnside Bourbon I picked up. I’m still a bit new at muddling but I’m going to poke around and see if there really is anything to it. Soak the sugar with water until it’s moist, add bitters and muddle with orange peel. An ounce and a half of bourbon and a short stir later and you’re in business.
After a few sips I can see the desire to play around with this. Orange peel and orange bitters give it a nice aroma and the taste is fine. A dash of Orange Curacao would I think give it the same effect and indeed that is common for a number of Old Fashioned versions. As cocktails go this is about as simple as a pink gin. Liquor + bitters = drink. I have to say that if you’re buying a good rye or bourbon that there isn’t much of a need for the orange or the sugar. They don’t offset the alcohol flavor in any way you’d note and they do play fast and loose with the bourbon flavors which can be quite subtle.
Given that bitters and a muddling stick aren’t going to be commonplace at the lower class of household bar I think this one can stay on the shelf and I’ll have my bourbon neat.