Old-fashioned cocktails

Fancy and Old-Fashioned Cocktails

Today’s definition of a cocktail is often associated with a myriad of mixed drinks. There are no clearly defined rules of what constitutes a cocktail as used to be with the old-fashioned cocktails.

At the beginning of the 1800s, there wasn’t any need for distinction or confusion of what a cocktail was. It was simply a drink made with a liquor of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters or Bittered Sling.

As time passed, new flavor modifiers (syrups, cordials) became available to the bartenders. They used them to experiment and create new recipes based on the original cocktail definition. A new category appeared on the menus to differentiate these new drinks. “The Fancy Cocktails.”

Initially, the Classic cocktails and the Fancy ones were pretty much the same.
The main difference was how they were served (in a fancy glass and garnished with lemon) and sometimes mixed with cordials, absinthe, or port wine.

In the first published bartending book, How to Mix Drinks in 1862, by Jerry Thomas, we can see cocktail recipes made both ways (Brandy cocktail – served on ice, and the Fancy Brandy cocktail – no ice) the only difference between them being the lemon peel garnish and the latter one served in a fancy wine glass with no ice.)

The Cocktail drinks were listed in the same section as Crusta, and according to J.Thomas,

Crusta was an improvement of the cocktail (the same as a fancy cocktail with some lemon juice added to it) and that “The Cocktail” is a “modern invention” used as a tonic in the morning or during fishing and sports parties.

What later contributed to the vast demand for cocktails was the flexibility of its definition (as opposed to the other drink families, Collins, Cobblers, etc.) and the Vermouth, according to the authors of Cocktail and How to Make Them in 1898.

The cocktail is of recent origin but has rapidly most frequently been called for in the morning and about half an hour before dinner.

The original cocktails were all made from Gin, Whiskey, or Brandy, and these are the spirits used in almost every well-known cocktail made today. The addition of Vermouth “was the first move toward blending cocktails and was the initial feature that led to their popularity.

Interestingly, in the book Cocktails and How to Make Them, there was no mention of the Old-Fashioned cocktail, but rather it focused on the cocktails made the old-fashioned way.

As more and more flavor modifiers were being introduced and recipes created, the new cocktail recipes often had little to do with the original definition of a cocktail.
That was probably one reason for creating and making drinks in the Old-fashioned way that subsequently led to the Old-Fashioned creation and popularity.

The Cocktail family was not different from any other drink family, and it was not even that popular before the mid-1800s. The cocktails were consumed mainly as an aperitif and always had to have bitters.
The original cocktails were usually made with brandy, whisky, and gin and always in the same way. If the ice was available, chill and strain into a small glass. The Fancy cocktails followed the same rule with the addition of lemon garnish, a cherry, or an olive.

Going back to the Cocktails and How to Make, 1898, the book’s authors recognized the difference in defining what constitutes a cocktail and what it had become under Fancy cocktails. They clearly intended to preserve the old classic way of making cocktails and give us the mixing rules.

COCKTAIL is an appetizer or stomach stimulant and differs from other drinks in that it is supposed to contain Bitters. It is the purpose of this book to give the rules for the mixing of simple and well-known cocktails.
As to rules for fancy cocktails there is no end, and the addition of the various ingredients for sweetening and blending of fancy cocktails has been left to the taste of the mixer. A dry cocktail is one in which very little, if any, sweetening is used, and is best for people who are constrained as to the use of sweets.

Cocktails should always be made in a glass with cracked ice, stirred with a spoon, and sufficient ice should be used so that when the drink is served the melting of the ice will cause the drink to be at least one-third water. The finer the ice the quicker it dissolves in the liquor, and hence the colder the drink.

Cocktails and How to Make, 1898, p. 7-8.

A cocktail should never be bottled and should always be made at the time of drinking. A bottled cocktail might be likened into a depot sandwich-neither are fit for use except in case of necessity.

Cocktails and How to Make, 1898

Cocktail Recipes Changes – 1862 to early 1900s

1862 – J. Thomas, How to Mix Drinks

The posted cocktail recipes (about ten) were all prepared similarly. It didn’t matter whether one used whiskey, brandy, or gin.

J. Thomas, Public Domain

There were two Brandy cocktail recipes.

Brandy Cocktail – 1862

1 wine glass (2 oz) of brandy
1 or 2 dashes of Curacoa
2 dashes of Boker’s bitters
3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup
Squeeze a lemon peel; fill one-third full of ice, and stir with a spoon.

Fancy Brandy Cocktail – 1862

The drink is made the same way as a Brandy Cocktail, except it is strained into a fancy wine glass and a piece of lemon thrown on it. The edge of the glass is moistened with lemon.

Note: The whiskey cocktail did not have any cordial added to it, in a way similar to the original cocktail. Some people might even say it was the Old-Fashioned predecessor, minus being served neat.

Whiskey Cocktail – 1862

3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup
2 dashes of Bogart’s bitters (Boker’s bitters)
1 wine glass (2 oz) of whiskey
1 lemon peel
Fill a glass two-thirds full of fine ice, shake, and strain in a fancy red wine glass.

1884, O.H Byron, The Modern Bartender’s Guide

By the mid-1880s, flavors modifiers had already been introduced into the cocktails recipes(raspberry syrup, Maraschino – West India Cocktail, or Fancy Brandy cocktail #2).

O.H. Byron cover
O.H Byron 1884

In 1884 Byron’s book, the number of cocktails published increased to eighteen, and where also encountered for first-time cocktails such as Martinez, Manhattan, and the Vermouth cocktail.

Brandy Cocktail – 1884

The recipe varies slightly from the one in J.Thomas’s book. It is more like what we know as Brandy old-fashioned served straight up.

Use small bar glass.
2 or 3 dashes of gum syrup
3 dashes of bitters
1 wine glass (2 oz) of brandy
Fill the glass with ice, stir with a spoon, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Whiskey Cocktail – 1884

Curacoa has been added to this recipe, making the drink the same as the Brandy Cocktail from 1862 and moving it farther away from the classic cocktail definition.

1 wine glass (2 oz) of whiskey
3 dashes of Curacoa
3 dashes of Boker’s bitters
3 dashes of gum syrup
Stir well in a glass filled with fine ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with lemon peel.

Manhattan Cocktail, No. 1

(A small wine glass.)
1 pony French vermouth.
1 pony whisky.
3 or 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
3 dashes of gum syrup

Manhattan Cocktail, No. 2

2 dashes Curacoa
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1/2 wineglass (1oz) whisky
1/2 wine glass Italian vermouth
Fine ice; stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

Martinez Cocktail

Same as Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whisky.

Vermouth Cocktail, No. 1

(A small glass.)
1 1/2 pony French vermouth
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes of gum syrup.

Vermouth Cocktail No. 2

Large bar glass filled with fine ice.
4 to 5 dashes of gum syrup
1 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters.
2 dashes Maraschino
1 wineglass (2 oz) vermouth
Stir well. Strain into a cocktail glass. A piece of lemon peel on top. Serve.

1888, Harry Johnson

Harry Johnson 1888
Harry Johnson, 1888

The Martini Cocktail is published in H. Johnson’sNew and Improved Bartenders Manual.

Martini Cocktail – 1888

Use a large bar glass. Fill the glass with ice.
2 or 3 dashes of Gum Syrup
2 or 3 dashes of Bitters; (Boker’s genuine only.)
1 dash of Curacoa
1/2 wine glass (1 oz) of Old Tom Gin;
1/2 wine glass of Vermouth
Stir well with a spoon and strain it into a fancy cocktail glass. Squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top and serve.

It is very similar to Martinez (no syrup) and the Brandy cocktail -1862 (no vermouth) with the addition of gum syrup and vermouth.

Whiskey Cocktail – 1888

“This drink is, without doubt, one of the most popular American drinks in existence.” H.Johnson, 1888

Use a large bar glass.
3/4 glass of finely shaved ice
2 or 3 dashes of Gum syrup
11/2 or 2 dashes of Bitters; (Boker’s genuine only)
1 or 2 dashes of Curacoa
1 wine glass (2 oz) of Whiskey
Stir up well with a spoon and strain it in a cocktail glass and squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top, and serve.

Old-Fashioned – 1888, Bartender’s Manual

The first mention of the Old Fashioned I came across in a published book was Theodore Proulx’s Bartender’s Manual, 1888.

Who created the drink or when it was created will always be debated, but what I think is fascinating is the road to creating it. Starting with the Whiskey and Brandy cocktails in the mid-1850s and through the following 40-50 years, people had always drunk similar cocktails, but by the end of the 19th century, the popularity of Fancy cocktails has increased to a point where it was inevitable cocktails made in the old ways to get their deserve style. A drink(s) made in an old-fashioned way.

The first version of the Old-fashioned Cocktail below is more like the Whiskey Cocktail, and the #2 is close to the Old-Fashioned as we know it.

Cocktail-Whisky – 1888

Take a mixing glass, hold it in your left hand, take a piece of lemon peel in your right hand, press it, and put it in the glass; then add two squirts of bitters, syrup, and absinthe; then put in ice and one jigger of whisky;
Stir it with a spoon, then strain it into a cocktail glass. Some bartenders make the mistake of adding the fruits of the season. It is wrong, as a cocktail should always be served plain.

Cold Whisky Sling, 1888

Interestingly, this drink was the reference made to the people who ordered it and the old-fashioned way it was made.

This is an old fashioned drink generally called for by old gentlemen.

H.Johnson, 1888

It is a combination of spirit, sugar, water, and spices. It is a traditional sling recipe very similar to Tody and the Cocktail (Bittered Sling) at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.

1 teaspoonful of sugar
1/2 wine glass (1 oz) of water, dissolve well
1 or two small lumps of ice
1 wine glass (2 oz) of Whiskey
Mix well in a small bar glass. Grate a little nutmeg on top, and serve.

1889, The American Bartender

In this cocktail book, two different Whiskey cocktail recipes were published: one was the Whiskey Cocktail, related to the J.Thomas 1862 recipe, and the second was the Improved Whiskey Cocktail – 1884 recipe in O.H.Byron, The Modern Bartender’s Guide. There was no mention of any old-fashioned-style cocktails.

Whisky Cocktail – 1889

(Use small bar glass.)
Take 8 or 4 dashes of gum syrup.
2 dashes of bitters (Boker’s).
1 wine glass of Loch Dhu Whisky.
Fill one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy red wine glass. Put in a piece of twisted lemon peel in the glass, and serve.

Improved Whiskey Cocktail – 1889

I was prepared in the same manner as the Improved Brandy Cocktail by substituting whisky for the brandy.
(Use small bar glass.)
Take 3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup.
2 dashes of bitters (Boker’s.)
1 wineglass of whiskey
1 or 2 dashes of Curacoa
Fill the glass one-third of shaved ice, and strain it into a cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel, place it in the glass and serve.

1895, Herbert W. Green

The second time I saw the Old-Fashioned published was in the H.W. Green book, Mixed Drinks.

Herber W. Green, 1895

Old Fashion Cocktail – 1895

Crush in small bar-glass one lump loaf sugar put in two dashes Caroni or Angostura bitters.
One piece of twisted lemon peel, two or three small lumps of ice, and one jigger whiskey.
Serve with a small bar spoon in the glass.

Whiskey Cocktail – 1895

Fill mixing-glass two-thirds full of fine ice, small bar-spoonful syrup, two dashes Caroni or Angostura bitters;
Stir well, strain in cooled cocktail-glass, squeeze the oil from a piece lemon peel on top, fruit if desired.

1898, Cocktails, How to Make Them

Cocktail 1898
Cocktails…How to male them, 1898

The first book I came across that was dedicated solely to Cocktail recipes, no Fixes, Daisy, Crusta, Punches, etc. Some of the well-known cocktails such as Whiskey or Brandy were listed as Fancy and Old-fashioned, clearly showing the generational transition of recipe preferences but at the same time the nostalgia for the old-time favorites.

The cocktails under the Old-fashioned name were listed as a way to make the old classic cocktails and not associated with the Old-Fashioned as we know it today.

Brandy Cocktail – 1898

In mixing glass half-full fine ice add;
two dashes gum-syrup,
two dashes Peychaud or Boker s bitters
one jigger brandy
Mix and strain into a cocktail glass. Add a piece of twisted lemon peel.

Brandy Cocktail- Old-Fashioned – 1898

Crush lump of sugar in a “whiskey-glass with sufficient hot water to cover the sugar and add one lump ice,
two dashes bitters
a mall piece lemon peel
one jigger brandy
Fill a mixing glass half-full fine ice and add three dashes of Maraschino. Stir with a small bar-spoon. Serve with the spoon in the glass.

Brandy Cocktail – Fancy – 1898

Two dashes Peychaud or Boker’s bitters
one jigger brandy
one dash orange bitters.
Mix. Strain into a cocktail glass, the rim of which has been moistened with a piece of lemon and dipped in powdered sugar.

Gin Cocktail- Old-Fashioned Holland – 1898

Put a lump of sugar in a whiskey glass and add enough hot water to cover the sugar.
Crush the sugar and add a lump of ice
two dashes of Boker’s bitters
small piece of lemon peel
one jigger of Holland gin.
Mix with a small bar spoon and serve with a spoon in a glass.

1901, The Cocktail Book

Two different gin Martini recipes were listed. The Old-Fashioned cocktail was not there, but similar to the 1898 American Bartender book, there were cocktails made in an old-fashioned way (Whiskey cocktail, Whiskey Fancy cocktail, and Whiskey Old-fashioned).

Martini Cocktail — No 1

Use Mixing Glass.
3 dashes orange bitters
one-half Tom gin
one-half Italian vermouth
small piece lemon peel.
Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Martini Cocktail—No. 2

Use Mixing Glass.
2 dashes of Boker’s bitters
one-half Tom gin
one-half Italian vermouth
half a teaspoonful of sherry
small piece of lemon peel.
Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Looking at the recipes in this book and in some other later publications on how the book’s contents were structured, the cocktails were becoming the leading drinks on which the publishers have focused.
Their versatility and transition from a set definition drink in the early 1800s to a more open interpretation of cocktail recipes led to increased popularity and adoption by society.

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