"Bartender for the Night" Experience for Two or Four with The Urban Bartender (Up to 42% Off)

The Urban Bartender Northern Baltimore

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Old Fashioneds: A Muddled History

Mixology may be a modern term, but its practice is downright historical. Check out our guide to the old fashioned for some insight into one of the industry’s oldest creations.

“I have heard of a forum, of phlegm-cutter and fog driver, of wetting the whistle, of moistening the clay, of a fillip, a spur in the head, quenching a spark in the throat, of flip & c, but never in my life, though I have lived a good many years, did I hear of cock tail,” wrote a saucy citizen to the newspaper of Hudson, New York, in 1806. At the dawn of the 19th century, mixology was almost unknown. But by 1895—when someone first thought to write down the recipe—barbacks from Kentucky to New York City were slinging a drink made with American rye whiskey, a semidissolved sugar cube, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters, garnished by a lemon peel or maraschino cherry. This was the old fashioned—a libation so venerable that it that had been known simply as a “whiskey cocktail” before newcomers such as the manhattan compelled a more distinctive name.

In its original form, the old fashioned was a potent, simple drink—“strong, square-jawed, with just enough civilization to keep you from hollerin’ like a mountain-jack,” wrote cocktail historian David Wondrich. During Prohibition, bartenders began muddling the sugar with fruit, yielding a beverage that tasted sweet to the point of being cloying and was often doused in seltzer. Though the mixology revolution has swung the pendulum back toward old-fashioned old fashioneds—including highfalutin reimaginings with roasted-peanut- and bacon-infused whiskey—some bars still mix versions that are more midcentury than mountain-jack.

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About The Urban Bartender


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