The Old Fashioned represents what is perhaps the oldest form of cocktail known. Unfortunately it has fallen out of favor these days, and I rarely see people ordering it. I suppose this could be partially due to the fact that most bartenders don't know how to properly make it anymore. The atrocities I often see inflicted on this drink include leaving out the bitters, and topping it off with water or soda. Please, stop the madness and let's start making this drink properly again!
You will often see recipes suggesting you muddle a half orange wheel with this drink. And while I like the effect the orange essence has overall, I dislike the added pulp that results. Since the oils in the orange peel itself are so wonderful, I prefer to simply cut an orange zest over the glass before pouring in the whiskey.
You also shouldn't even think about muddling a cherry in this drink, it doesn't really add anything, except for a mangled carcass on the bottom of the glass. Save it for a garnish instead.
It is often cited that this drink was created at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. David Wondrich however has uncovered evidence which shows this not be the case. He has a reference to the term "Old Fashioned" as applied to a cocktail being used at least a year before the Pendennis Club opened. The term itself, is simply referring to making a cocktail the "Old Fashioned" way, since it was around 1870 that a "new" style of cocktail was emerging, which gave birth to drinks such as the Manhattan and Martini, which don't reflect the classic "spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters" which originally defined the cocktail.
While a traditional "whiskey cocktail" would have originally been commonly made with
rye whiskey, these days it is more common to find it made with bourbon instead