Kentucky is serious about bourbon. If you order an Old Fashioned in Kentucky, there’s not much question about what you will get. There are a few rules when it comes to bourbon production, as well as some unwritten rules that come with how you drink it. We’ve all heard the self-proclaimed bourbon connoisseur at the restaurant who orders a “Woodford and Coke”. What that guy doesn’t know is that he’s breaking one of those unwritten rules just by ordering that disrespectful combination. Look, everyone likes their own flavors and I’m not saying you can’t drink bourbon mixed with cola. I’m just saying that the bourbon you mix with cola shouldn’t cost more than $10 per liter. If you’re not a person who looks forward to completely wrecking the flavor of a good bourbon, there are certain bourbon cocktails that have stood the test of time. These cocktails contain flavors that will mingle with your bourbon and still allow you to taste it. One of these creations is the Old Fashioned. Some mixologists have gotten playful with their interpretation of the ingredients in the classic bourbon cocktail. I’m here to tell you where the best adaptations have been created in Louisville.
The history behind this cocktail is pretty fascinating, especially if you live in Louisville. The earliest recorded definition of the word “cocktail” is found in a May 13, 1806 issue of a Hudson, NY newspaper. It’s described as spirits, water, bitters, and sugar. Over the course of many years, several different additions, including absinthe, were attempted on the original “cocktail”, causing it to lose some of its early interpretation. Rum, gin, and brandy were common ingredients for a long time as well. But the O.G. recipe stuck around and came back stronger than ever in the 1860s. By then it was being referred to as an “Old Fashioned” because it had reverted back to the original recipe. According to a number of sources, the most popular version of this concoction by 1882 used rye whiskey as the “spirit” in the recipe. Either way, the first time the name “Old Fashioned” was used to describe a bourbon cocktail was said to have been at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, 1881.
Brown Sugar | Bourbon-soaked Amarena Cherry | Fresh Sliced Orange
As one of the best new restaurants for 2015, Fontleroy’s doesn’t just stop at delicious food. They also have a diverse list of creative craft cocktails that caps this concept off with a bang. Brown sugar is a pretty sweet change from the traditional, and the bourbon-soaked cherry actually brings a little value to your average maraschino cherry. You’ll want to eat that cherry when your finished.
STOUT BURGERS & BEERS
Caramelized Simple Syrup | Angostura Bitters | Orange Peel | Luxardo Cherry
With this burger joint being straight out of Los Angeles, CA, I didn’t expect to find a carefully constructed bourbon list or a meticulously mixed Old Fashioned on the menu. Stout Burgers & Beers on Bardstown Rd at Bonneycastle Ave has both, and a lot more. The caramelized simple syrup is one of those small changes that makes a big difference. I would have to say that the biggest difference in this Old Fashioned is the cherry. The Luxardo Cherry is something else. This sour marasca cherry comes from the Veneto region of Italy, it’s candied and steeped in a syrup made of cherry juice and sugar, and it will blow your mind.
CAFÉ LOU LOU
Bruléed Orange Peel | Cherry | Simple Syrup | Angostura & Peychaud Bitters
While this recipe is quite different from the “Smokehouse Old Fashioned” listed on Cafe Lou Lou‘s cocktail menu, it’s possible to get this special treat, you just have to ask nicely. I call it JV Style. The bartender takes a brulée torch to the orange peel, which tweaks the flavor of the orange, and the overall tone of the cocktail. When you take direct heat to anything edible, it changes the flavor. Try this with Bulleit Rye Bourbon.
Finally on this list, we look to the classic recipe at a classic joint. Jack’s Lounge uses Old Forester Signature Bourbon with muddled cherry and orange slice, a dash of Angostura bitters, and some sugar. The proportions seem to fit exactly what they were talking about in the 1860s, and Jack’s Lounge provides the proper atmosphere for drinking your Old Fashioned. Pull up a spot at one of their comfy leather couches, get yourself some Calamari, and enjoy your experience!
The Old Fashioned gives you a chance to drink a delicious cocktail without disrespecting a delicacy. Say no to cola and yes to one of these fine cocktails. Don’t forget that you can get some amazing food at all of the restaurants mentioned above. Cheers!
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