Fruit or no fruit? That is the question (or one of them, anyway). Like Martinis, Old-Fashioneds are one of those drinks that’ve been around long enough to have developed more than a few variations.
A satisfying blend of whiskey (preferably straight rye or bourbon, though some recipes use Canadian Whisky or a blended scotch), bitters, and sugar, stirred together with ice (and sometimes topped up with club soda), the Old-Fashioned makes a great wintertime drink. Richly flavorful, but not overly strong, it works equally well during cocktail hour, or as an after-dinner sipper.
But let’s get back to the fruit: While older, pre-Prohibition recipes call for the simple addition of a twist of lemon peel to the mix described above, more recent versions often fancy things up with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry instead. And while it’s often been remarked that these late additions were just add-ons to disguise the taste of bad contraband liquor during Prohibition, I personally think they can contribute a lot to the flavor of the drink.
So, if you have some good really fruit on hand - as I did this weekend - why not take advantage? Slice up some fresh, juicy oranges (I used blood oranges), and drop in a quality preserved cherry (I used homemade maraschinos preserved from the summer - with no day-glow red dye, they’re a little pale looking in the photo, but believe me, their flavor’s amazing), and you’re in business.
Whiskey Old-Fashioned (Fruit-Style)
Makes 1 drink
2 ounces whiskey (rye or bourbon – I used Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (or 1 sugar cube)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 orange wedge (I used blood orange)
1 maraschino cherry (I used homemade)
1 teaspoon water (for muddling)
A splash of club soda (I omitted this step)
Place the sugar cube in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add the bitters and water directly to the sugar so that they are absorbed. Muddle together with the back of a spoon (some recipes call for the fruit to be muddled at this point, but I prefer to add it later, whole). Add the whiskey and one or two large ice cubes. Stir gently. Garnish with the cherry and orange - and be sure to savor both when your drink is done.
Related: The Celluloid Pantry: Sazeracs and Live and Let Die (1973)
(Images: Nora Maynard)