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Whiskey Cocktails: The Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Sazerac and Mint Julep

Jack Bettridge
Posted: August 9, 2013

(continued from page 1)

2 ounces Bourbon, Tennessee or straight rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes bitters
1 maraschino cherry

Pour whiskey, vermouth and bitters over ice in a shaker or pitcher. Shake or stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

Note: The drink becomes a Perfect Manhattan when sweet and dry vermouth are mixed, a Dry Manhattan when you use only dry vermouth. It can also be endlessly varied with different aperitifs, bitters and garnishes.


Deep into the screwball comedy of the 1963 movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World comes a scene in which Jim Backus, as a besotted pilot, asks non-flier Buddy Hackett to take the controls so he can make "an Old-Fashioned the old-fashioned way." Hackett worriedly replies, "What if something happens?" To which Backus answers in his best Larchmont lockjaw, "What can happen to an Old-Fashioned?"

old-fashioned cocktail.
Apparently a lot.

Originally it was styled a Whiskey Cocktail, a simple mix of spirit, sugar and bitters. Then came the rococo post-Civil War era of drinking, when bartenders fell to bombarding concoctions with syrups, cordials and fruit juices. Patrons who favored a return to a less bumptious cocktail—one that hewed to the original definition from the beginning of the century—would ask for their drink served the old-fashioned way, and the Whiskey Cocktail was renamed the Old-Fashioned.

Later it became more specifically a Bourbon drink—as in the one made at Louisville's Pendennis Club. Now you'll typically see it tricked out with fruit. Purists may complain, but it makes for a great drink.
When you think about how long the Old-Fashioned has been around the name makes sense. Fittingly the cultural references abound: from Huck Finn describing (but not naming) it, to Updike disparaging it, to Don Draper demonstrating it on "Mad Men."


1 teaspoon simple syrup or 1 sugar cube
2 dashes bitters
1 maraschino cherry
1 orange slice
2 ounces Bourbon, Tennessee or straight rye whiskey
Seltzer water (optional)

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