More than just a cocktail of the modern Mad Men fame, the Old Fashioned has it’s roots as far back as the 19th century in America. As with anything, the history and origins of this cocktail can be hazy, thus vary depending on who’s telling the story.
Legend has it James E. Pepper invented the drink in Louisville, before he brought the recipe to New York City. This is oft cited where the old-fashioned was born.
The Standard Mix
There are four essential ingredients that are in today’s rendition of the Old Fashioned: whiskey, bitters, sugar, and splash of water to open up the flavor profile. Twist of orange peel and cherry as garnish. Add ice. Depending on the time period, and who you ask, what gets muddled is typically the sugar, bitters, and splash of water. Some also muddle the cherry and orange, but I won’t hold that against them.
One variation of this cocktail include the Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail. This uses Holland gin, and a twist of lemon instead of orange, hold the cherry. Though if you ask me, whiskey will always be the Old Fashioned standard.
For more history and information, I’d suggest reading this article from the New York Times.