WHICH BOURBON MAKES THE BEST OLD FASHIONED?
The deceptively simple Old Fashioned is only as good as its ingredients. And its most important ingredient? The whiskey, of course. A good Old Fashioned can be made with almost any kind of whiskey, from single malt to rye whiskey, but it’s hard to go wrong with a bourbon version of this most iconic of classic cocktails.
Ready to take your Old Fashioned from good to great? Read on for some tips from Nic Christiansen, Barrell Craft Spirits’ single barrel program manager and a total pro behind the bar. (Literally. She’s worked at some of the nation’s best cocktail bars, served as a former US Bartenders’ Guild board member, and has dished out expert cocktail tips on Top Chef).
PICKING THE RIGHT BOTTLE
“The first thing to look for is quality,” says Nic. “Was the bourbon made well? Does it taste good neat? The simplicity of an Old Fashioned is what makes it a versatile and accessible cocktail, but it can also be the thing to ruin it.” In other words, there’s nowhere to hide lackluster ingredients in a cocktail with just three ingredients. So go ahead – reach for the good stuff.
“The next thing I look for is proof and age. I don’t like to go lower than 100 proof because you can start to lose the distinguishing qualities of the bourbon. 100 proof straight bourbon can create a consistent delicious Old Fashioned, but I really love the 105-112 range. This is why I love cask strength bourbon in my Old Fashioned,” says Nic. “You also typically want something six years or older. I love the 8-15 year range.”
“Any of the Bourbons at Barrell Craft Spirits can make a good Old Fashioned, since they are all barrel strength and created with high quality bourbon,” says Nic. Two of her favorites are the BCS Barrell Bourbon 15 Year, which has notes of caramel, tropical fruit, and oak that pair lusciously with demerara syrup and bitters; and the Barrell Bourbon Batch 24, a high rye bourbon whose notes of baked goods, black pepper, and mulling spice lend an autumnal air to any cocktail.
MIX YOUR OWN
“An Old Fashioned recipe should enhance the bourbon whiskey without overpowering it,” says Nic. “In its simplest form, the Old Fashioned is three things – Spirit, sugar and bitters. With this formula you can really play around with the ingredients and personalize it to your tastes.”
Once you master this basic version, feel free to experiment with different bitters and/or flavored syrups. Use a sugar cube instead of simple syrup for a super-traditional take. Try mixing two different whiskeys—say a Barrell Craft Spirits rye whiskey with one of our many Kentucky straight bourbons. Or—gasp!—you can even swap out the bourbon for one of our small batch cask-strength rums.
OLD FASHIONED COCKTAIL
● 2 ounces Barrell Bourbon Batch 24
● 1 bar spoon or teaspoon Demerara Syrup (recipe included below)
● 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
● Strip of orange and/or lemon peel
Add all ingredients into a mixing glass, fill with ice, stir, and then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice (preferably a large ice cube). Once in the glass, express citrus peel over the glass, then place in glass. Enjoy while channeling your inner Don Draper or Jackie O.
To make demerara syrup: Add two cups Demerara sugar and one cup water to a saucepan. Whisk on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool and refrigerate.