Saying farewell to "Mad Men" with an Old Fashioned salute | Rock Candy

Saying farewell to "Mad Men" with an Old Fashioned salute


Preparing to mix an Old Fashioned. - JOEL DIPIPPA
  • Joel DiPippa
  • Preparing to mix an Old Fashioned.

Sunday, "Mad Men" came to a close after 8 years and seven seasons on AMC. As Mad Men ends, I thought I would take a look back at one of the cultural touchstones it revitalized (besides the timelessness of the fedora)—The Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.

The Old Fashioned cocktail is really one of the first "get off my lawn" grumpy old man orders. It showed up in the late 1800 as bartenders were beginning to experiment with maraschino liqueur and vermouths to create more complicated and often sweeter drinks. The "Old Fashioned" was a call back to old-style cocktails without this newfangled frippery.

What I like about an Old Fashioned is that it brings all of the different flavors of your whiskey to the front. You add a little sweetness, a little bitterness and a hint of citrus—each of which will accentuate a different flavor component of the whiskey. It makes the whiskey more...whiskey. 

There are hundreds of ways to make an Old Fashioned, partially depending on when you learned to make one. It's almost a personality test for your bartender to ask for an Old Fashioned and see which variety they make, but the most important thing is to know what you like in your Old Fashioned. If you don't feel like mixing one up yourself, skip below to see a few places around town to enjoy one of these classic drinks. 

Drink historian David Wondrich describes one of the oldest recipes in his book Imbibe as follows :

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with a small barspoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.
As the 20th century wore on, and cocktails lost some of their luster, bartenders would muddle some day-glo maraschino cherries and whole wedges of orange, topping the drink with ounces of soda water. The advent of the Old Fashioned cooler saw the addition of muddled candied cherry, a whole orange slice, with the sugar and the bitters (if you were lucky) before having the whiskey topped with club soda.

I make them a lot closer to the 1880s recipe because I enjoy the flavor of whiskey and like the encouragement to sip instead of gulp due to the smaller serving size. This is a cocktail you probably already have the ingredients for at home—sugar, citrus and whiskey. If you happen to lack bitters, you can pick up a bottle of Angostura at your grocery store. This is a cocktail easily made at home.

Old Fashioned, read to drink. - JOEL DIPIPPA
  • Joel DiPippa
  • Old Fashioned, read to drink.

  • 2 ounces whiskey Bourbon, Rye, or Canadian—use your personal choice, though I tend to go rye.
  • 1teaspoon simple syrup—I don't like the grit of undissolved sugar at the bottom of my glass, others do
  • 3-4 dashes bitters, or to taste. This is one place you can really change the complexion of a drink but for the sake of our post we will stick with the classic Angostura bitters. 
  • 1 citrus peel—Usually orange, but a lemon peel wouldn't hurt with rye. Use your peeler to take off the peel with as little white pith as possible. 


  • Cocktail Cherry - Steve Shuler over at Little Rock Foodcast and I sat down to explore cocktail cherries for the Old Fashioned. If you want to use a cocktail cherry, we had some recommendations on buying them and on making them

  1. Add sugar and bitters to a rocks or Old Fashioned glass. Stir briefly with a drop or two of water.
  2. Add the whiskey and stir to combine; stir well to dissolve your sugar or syrup.
  3. Gently bend the citrus twist over the drink to get the oils onto it, and drop into the drink along with the optional cherry.
  4. Add ice—If you have a 2" cube, use that, otherwise add one or two large pieces of ice to your taste.  
Don't want to mix one of these up yourself? Curious to see how the professionals do it? Here are some suggestions for places around town where you can try variations on the Old Fashioned:

Old Fashioned, South on Main - JOEL DIPIPPA
  • Joel DiPippa
  • Old Fashioned, South on Main

South on Main: It would be a dereliction not to mention South on Main's Social Hour. David, Keegan, and the whole bar staff are serving up Old Fashioneds for $6 in the Social Hour from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. daily. For that price, made with precision and care, and with the bar snacks available, it is unbeatable. The Old Fashioned here is a little spicier than you may expect from a Bourbon Old Fashioned, but that is partially because of the use of Peychaud’s Bitters.  

Old Fashioned, Capital Bar and Grill - JOEL DIPIPPA
  • Joel DiPippa
  • Old Fashioned, Capital Bar and Grill

Capital Bar & Grill: CBG also serves up a fantastic Old Fashioned, but even more importantly it fits the age and history of the drink. Sipping on an Old Fashioned in a well-appointed room on a dark wood bar, with light lazily filtering in through the blinds seems to put my mind at ease. In the fall, or early spring, take one from CBG to the balcony upstairs and listen to the traffic going by while you drink an Old Fashioned in class. 

Old Fashioned, The Pantry - JOEL DIPIPPA
  • Joel DiPippa
  • Old Fashioned, The Pantry

The Pantry: Both The Pantry and Pantry Crest serve up a fantastic Old Fashioned out west and in midtown respectively. The Pantry has always had a strong bar program with a foundation in the classics and neither outpost disappoints here. They are a classic take on the drink with a smooth demeanor. These have house made Berechovka cherries and seem exceptionally well suited to a patio paired with their bacon-wrapped dates.

Where is your favorite spot to enjoy an Old Fashioned around town? Do you have a favorite whiskey to use or special bitters at home? Let me know in the comments and let me know what else you want to see in this space. 

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