The Old-Fashioned

Much like the drink of the title, Robert Simonson’s chronicle of the whiskey cocktail comes down to a few key ingredients. This history of the Old-Fashioned—from the 19th century and Prohibition through post-WWII prosperity and the recent artisanal cocktail revolution—is succinct but with enough depth to offer fellow bar-goers or cocktail-party guests a splash of colorful conversation. Simonson’s analysis allows for historical context, which balances centuries-old debates between purists and those preferring to muddy the waters—or, in this case, bourbon—with fruits, spices and other additions. He makes a case for both sides, illustrating the drink’s universal appeal. The Old-Fashioned closes with nearly 50 recipes deftly displaying the versatility of an Old-Fashioned’s key ingredients—spirits, sweeteners, bitters and water. The classic original Whiskey Cocktail with a lemon peel is refreshing and crisp, while the Honey-Nut Old-Fashioned—made from peanut-infused bourbon and honey syrup—proves creativity has its place at the bar as well. Versions using tequila, rum and Danish aquavit may be too far removed from the classic recipe for purists, but their ingenious use of four key ingredients is more than enough reason to order one more round.