The Old Fashioned is arguably one of the most important landmarks in the history of the cocktail. At its core, it’s an incredibly simple drink: just whiskey, bitters, and sugar stirred around a large ice cube. Throughout the years, other spirits have been used as the base component, and there was a period of time in the ‘70s and ‘80s when big chunks of orange were muddled with Day-Glo maraschino cherries to create a sweet, fruity blob that overpowered the beauty of this uncomplicated drink. Nowadays, any bar around the world worth its shakers will have an Old Fashioned on its menu, and there are often interesting and creative twists on the classic. Tequila, mezcal, rum, and other spirits are sometimes used as the base, and fruit and bitters are occasionally replaced with amaro or liqueurs. Try one of these modern takes, then order a traditional version to compare, at one of these eight bars that are making some of the best Old Fashioneds in the world.
Vol. 39: Chicago
At Chicago’s Vol. 39, located in the Kimpton Gray Hotel, there are eight different Old Fashioneds to choose from, each made using a different base spirit. Try the Japanese Whisky version, made with Hibiki Harmony, Legent Bourbon, passionfruit, and lavender. If you prefer something smokey, order the Mezcal Old Fashioned made with hibiscus and bitters, or the Scotch version made with Glenfiddich 14, Monkey Shoulder, and umami demerara sugar. Of course, they’ll also make you a classic if you ask as well.
Tokyo Whisky Library: Tokyo
Tokyo is known for its cocktail bars, where great attention to detail is paid to both classic and modern drinks. At Tokyo Whisky Library, you are obviously going to find a lot of whiskey and whisky—over 1,200 bottles, to be precise. So why not enjoy some in the bar’s version of an Old Fashioned called Line Out. It’s made with Woodford Reserve Rye infused with cacao nibs, walnut liqueur, Grand Marnier, and chocolate orange tea, combining bright citrus flavors with dark chocolate and coffee notes.
Lyaness is an interesting London bar that uses seven signature ingredients to make three cocktails each (along with additional components). The bar’s version of an Old Fashioned is called the Soy Wax Old Fashioned, and Infinite Banana is the house ingredient of choice here. Infinite Banana was created as sort of an antidote to isoamyl acetate, which provides the recognizable taste and flavor to many banana flavored spirits. This unconventional Old Fashioned combines Dewar’s 12, organic candle wax, burnt banana bitters, and the aforementioned Infinite Banana to create something altogether different from the classic.
Jigger & Pony: Singapore
Jigger & Pony’s cocktail list has nearly 30 drinks, celebrating the classics and offering some newly created innovations. It’s also an enjoyable read, with descriptions and photos that provide ample details and a little history. The Old Fashioned is treated with reverence, with the menu describing it as the start of a “journey towards better drinking.” It’s fairly basic but expertly made, with a nod to the inferior muddled fruit of past versions through the addition of a cherry and citrus wheel that is placed inside the glass. The more you stir, the more pronounced the fruit flavors become, complementing the whiskey, bitters, and sugar.
The Longshoreman: Brooklyn
There are countless great bars in New York City that make their own commendable versions of the Old Fashioned. A relative newcomer on the scene is Brooklyn’s The Longshoreman, an Italian restaurant with a fantastic bar program that uses carefully selected spirits to build its cocktails. The “New Old Fashioned” found here combines the always dependable Four Roses bourbon, blood orange liqueur, and rosemary demerara. And in a surprise twist, a shot of espresso can be added to the drink for a little caffeine jolt, making this more of a coffee cocktail than a traditional Old Fashioned. Another unusual style choice here is that the drink is shaken instead of stirred, giving it an eye-catching foamy top.
The Exchequer: Dublin
Dublin has come into its own as a cocktail city at the same time as Irish whiskey has come back into vogue and new distilleries are springing up around the country. There are many bars that are incorporating Irish whiskey into classic cocktails, but some stay true to time-tested recipes. The Smoked Old Fashioned at The Exchequer is made with bourbon, uses maple syrup as a sweetener, and arrives at your table in a glass carafe full of smoke. You decide how long you want to let it sit before it’s poured; the longer it does, the smokier it will be once you drink it.
CUT Steakhouse: Washington, D.C.
Any decent steakhouse has to have a good Old Fashioned on its menu, right? Well, Wolfgang Puck’s Cut Steakhouse at the Rosewood Hotel happens to have several. You can choose from three WhistlePig Old Fashioneds served from a trolley tableside, made using six, ten, or 12-year-old rye whiskey. Or try the Cuban Old Fashioned, given a Latin American and Italian twist with the use of Flor De Caña Rum along with local Don Ciccio Ferro-Kina. Finally, there’s a Barrel Aged Old Fashioned, matured for a few weeks in a small cask to give it a bit of extra oak and tannin flavors.