Bottle of syrup between two Old Fashioned cocktails in glasses.

The Best (and Oldest) Cocktail in History

The Old Fashioned has been beloved by drinkers across history. Seasoned drinkers often measure the greatness of a cocktail bar by the greatness of their Old Fashioned. And who could blame them!? A well made Old Fashioned is a testament to the quality of its ingredients. At Twisted Alchemy, we believe that elevated quality and simplicity go hand in hand. That is why we created our Rich Demerara Syrup with excellent Old Fashioneds in mind. Not only does this syrup contain several curated varieties of sugar, but each bottle makes 100 Old Fashioneds. Each jigger of this delicious syrup is a testament to the long history, and bright future, of this classic cocktail.

The beverage that we now regard as a whiskey based mixture of sugar, orange bitters, and water is in fact considered by many to be the original cocktail. The history of the Old Fashioned is really the history of cocktailing in America, the evolution of American drinking habits, and the development of cocktail recipes. Despite the length of its history, the Old Fashioned has maintained its popularity and allure for over a hundred years.

Today, the Old Fashioned remains a beloved cocktail. It has experienced a resurgence in popularity with the revival of craft cocktail culture, but unlike many recently revived cocktails, it never truly left the staple menu at bars across the world. What became the most popular cocktail in history began in the early 19th century when cocktails were simple concoctions consisting of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. These early cocktails were often made with whiskey, brandy, or gin that was not regulated and often had inconsistent (and sometimes downright bad) flavor and a drastically varying ABV. Today, cocktails are staples of almost any activity that happens after 5 o’clock, but the original cocktails were often consumed as a morning pick-me-up or a pre-dinner appetite stimulant (much in the model of the Italian aperitivo or the French aperitif).

As the 19th century progressed, cocktail recipes began to evolve, and bartenders started experimenting with additional ingredients and flavors. During this era, many of what are today considered the “classic cocktails” were born, and many of them began to depart from the traditional combination of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters- both due to the relentless ingenuity of bartenders everywhere, and the increasing consistency and regulation of available spirits. However, by the late 19th century, the Temperance Movement was gaining traction, advocating for the reduction or elimination of alcohol consumption. As many luxurious bars slunk into basements and speakeasies across the country, elaborate cocktails became harder to produce, and simpler recipes once again gained popularity.

It was during this time that the Old Fashioned cocktail as it is ordered today emerged. Its name was derived from the rising desire for drinkers to indulge in traditional recipes, harkening back to the simple and straightforward cocktails of earlier times. It isn’t hard to imagine slinking into a speakeasy and covertly ordering a beverage made in the “old fashioned” way.

Because whiskey was widely available despite prohibition-era regulation, The Old Fashioned was often made with this spirit. This cocktail typically consisted of a sugar cube muddled with a few dashes of bitters, a splash of water, and a measure of whiskey. The mixture was stirred with ice until chilled, then strained into a glass and garnished with a twist of orange peel.

The Old Fashioned gained widespread popularity and became a staple in bars and clubs across the United States. Its simplicity and elegance appealed to a wide range of palates, and it was embraced by both cocktail connoisseurs and casual drinkers. The drink's popularity was further solidified when it was featured in "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks," a renowned cocktail recipe book published by David A. Embury in 1948. Today, the Old Fashioned is served in dive bars, mixed up in the at-home kitchen, and expertly crafted behind elegant cocktail counters. At Twisted Alchemy, we know the secret to finding the best ones- those that provide the time-honored sweet notes with a pure and curated Rich Demerara Syrup.

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