Recipe: The Most Classic Cocktail, Miami-Style

updated Dec 17, 2019
Gramps' Rum Old Fashioned
This is how Miami makes an Old Fashioned. (They use rum.)


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(Image credit: Tara Donne)
(Image credit: Rotem Raffe)

Going to Miami and not having a fruity, frosty drink would be like going to the movies and not having popcorn. Order that piña colada! Then, follow it up with a local twist on that most classic of cocktails.

I’m talking about the Old Fashioned, which is as simple as cocktails get (not to mention delicious). It’s just sugar, bitters, and whiskey. The idea behind the Miami-version of this cocktail is just as simple. Just swap out your whisky for the Sunshine State’s favorite spirit: rum.

(Image credit: Tara Donne)

We sampled this tropics-inspired tipple at Gramps, a kitschy cool bar in the Wynwood Arts District. Named after the maternal grandfather of owner Adam Gersten, it brings to mind that Macklemore song “Thrift Shop.” In other words, we’re talking grandpa style in the coolest of all possible ways — cheap beer and bocce ball included. Oh, and did we mention there’s a pizza window? We’re pretty sure anyone, Gramps included, would approve of that.

But Gersten says there’s more to it than just the look (which, he notes, was originally inspired by his grandfather’s home office, but ended up being nothing like it). “Miami is my hometown and, at the time that I was opening Gramps, a lot of the places I loved were closed or closing,” he explains. “Progress in Miami is unrelenting and there’s no regard for history. So, I wanted the name of the bar and the feeling of the bar to be connected to history, family, tradition — the things that aren’t shown enough respect.”

A Miami-Style Twist on the Most Classic Cocktail

But back to that cocktail (and speaking of tradition), Gersten says he wanted to put a Miami-style twist on a really classic cocktail. What is more classic than an Old Fashioned? And what is more Miami than rum?

“It is the spirit of Miami,” Gersten notes, although the rum he uses isn’t your beach-variety blanco — it’s anejo, which means aged, and has more depth and complexity. Plus, he admits, “I was trying to keep some foot grounded in the traditional Old Fashioned and I needed a brown spirit.” He recommends Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, which is from Venezuela and “a spectacular value,” or Barbancourt, a Haitian rum.

Two other twists — the black pepper syrup, instead of simple syrup, and the orange bitters — add some “spice and zing and cha cha cha,” and are a nod to the Miami palate.

(Image credit: Tara Donne)

Gramps' Rum Old Fashioned

This is how Miami makes an Old Fashioned. (They use rum.)

Makes 1

Nutritional Info


  • Ice

  • 2 ounces

    añejo rum

  • 1/4 ounce

    black pepper syrup, such as Blank Slate Kitchen's

  • 3 dashes

    orange bitters

  • 1 dash

    Angostura bitters

  • Orange twist or peel, for garnish


  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the rum, black pepper syrup, orange bitters, and Angostura bitters. Stir until well-chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks or old fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange peel or twist.

Recipes from the Road are recipes gathered from our travels near and far. When you’re there, when you come home, a recipe is always the best souvenir. This month we’re visiting Miami.