When you think of an Old Fashioned, what is the first spirit that comes to mind? Whiskey, right? Bourbon, specifically. Well, even that’s what we know and have come to love, the Old Fashioned cocktail wasn’t always made with whiskey.
The first documentation of the word cocktail (we’ll get to the Old Fashioned part soon) happened way back in the early 1800s, when Hudson, New York’s The Balance and Columbian Repository explained (in response to a reader’s question) that a cocktail was a mix of booze, sugar, bitters, and water. Over the next couple of decades, the Old Fashioned popped up in various places, perhaps most notably in Jerry Thomas’ seminal cocktail book Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide, where he writes of an Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail.
As we said, no whiskey in sight.
Skip ahead another decade or so to 1881 and we get to the Old Fashioned we know and love, which was invented at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1881 in honor of a bourbon distiller named James E. Pepper. (If you want to learn more about James E. Pepper, you can always visit the distillery that is named for him, which is now open in Lexington, Kentucky.)
Bartenders these days, it seems, are embracing the fact that Old Fashioned cocktails don’t have to be made with bourbon or whiskey. Across the country, you’ll find mezcal riffs, genever riffs, and more.
One recipe that we came across was a rum-based Old Fashioned at Little Jack’s Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina.
Why did Little Jack’s go with rum over any other spirits? We asked general manager Marc Hudacsko to explain. “Our cocktail menu consists of all classic cocktails. Things our parents and grandparents would have enjoyed. The Old Fashioned is, of course, as old school and classic as they come. With that particular cocktail, we wanted to throw a little bit of a curveball. Rum is a huge part of the culture and history of Charleston, so we decided to pay homage to that history. Also, we love rum!”
You can’t really argue with someone who loves rum. We guess you could, but you’d just look like a jerk.
So without further ado, here is how to make a Rum Old Fashioned at home.
Rum Old Fashioned
- 2 oz Plantation 5 yr Rum
- .25 oz demerara syrup
- 14 drops (2 dashes) Regan’s orange bitters
- 21 drops (3 dashes) Jack Rudy Aromatic bitters
Method: Press one Jack Rudy cherry to the bottom of the glass. Mix all ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass. Stir about 30 revolutions with ice. Garnish with an orange peel expressed in and around the glass.
- How to Make an Old Fashioned (Video)
- How to Make a Manhattan (Video)
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