The Old Fashioned cocktail is the drink of choice for Don Draper, Creative Director at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce, the Madison Avenue advertising agency in Mad Men, which premieres season five this Sunday night on AMC. It's the first drink we saw when the series premiered in July 2007. The drink enjoyed by Don Draper throughout the last four seasons however, is not necessarily the truest form of the cocktail. Its period appropriate--like everything else in the show--but is a somewhat bastardized version of the original cocktail.
One of the earliest recipes for the Old Fashioned is simple enough Don's daughter Sally could mix it up: "Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, and one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass." This drink was first called the "Old Fashioned" at a gentlemen's club--the Pendennis Club--in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1880s. The recipe is said to have been invented by a bartender at the club, and since it was in bourbon country, the drink was typically made with bourbon.
The term "cocktail" was used to describe a simple morning drink in the early 1800s. Bitters were added to sugar, water and spirits to drink as a tummy tamer or hair of the dog. By the late 1800s, a cocktail was pretty much any mixed drink, making an Old Fashioned the simpler old-fashioned way to make a cocktail. By the 1960s however, the drink evolved to include a maraschino cherry and a slice of orange muddled in the bottom, and some variations even included pineapple. Many believe the addition of fruit and other sweeteners was adopted during Prohibition, to mask the flavor or bad booze, but whatever the reason, it's often how you'll be served the drink if you order it today.
Not everyone is okay with the fruity additions to the Old Fashioned however. Cocktail enthusiast Martin Doudoroff recently launched OldFashioned101.com, which is a manifesto of sorts about the proper way to make an Old Fashioned, and includes several rules, or "barnacles" as he calls them, such as:
- There is no slice of orange in an Old Fashioned.
- There is no cherry in an Old Fashioned.
- You do not mash up fruit of any kind in an Old Fashioned.
- There is no seltzer, soda water, ginger ale, or lemon soda in an Old Fashioned.
For the Mad Men premiere this Sunday night, while I puff on bubble gum cigarettes, the cocktail in my hand will likely be the purer form of the Old Fashioned as demonstrated by Rachel Maddow in the video below. I like the simple version. But, you can't deny the eye candy that is Don Draper making his version of the drink in an episode from season three, as seen in this clip.