The Old Fashioned was originally named The Whiskey Cocktail and follows the simple formula of spirit, sugar, water and bitters. It is not 100% where it came from but it the name started to appear in the early 1800s and by the mid 1800s the cocktail had picked up a lot of popularity and was referred to as the “fashionable accompaniment to the sporting life” in the Memphis Daily Appeal. The cocktail was easily made and batched so would be sent off and sold as provisions to the army during the Civil War. The drink was seen as one you would drink in the morning to wake yourself up. William Schmidt, a bartender of the era was quoted in saying “cocktails are sought after in the morning. To make a good one you must fill a goblet with fine ice, add two dashes of Angostura bitters, three dashes of gum and one of absinthe and a small drink of whiskey or other liquor; shake well and squeeze a lemon peel over the top.” Thus prescribing an Old Fashioned or Whiskey Cocktail. Although the addition of absinthe makes it an improved whiskey cocktail.
As backbars expanded so did the variations of the whiskey cocktail with additions like curacao, maraschino or absinthe. By 1870/80s these improved cocktails were decided they weren’t what they said on the tin. Like these added and then removed additions there were other styles to the old fashioned like the silver spoon. This enable a drinker to get the sugar and or fruit rom the bottom of the cocktail after they had finished. The tradition was then lost during the Prohibition era. The fruit being another fad that this drink saw come and go. However the drink still managed to survive this era.
The first mention of ‘the Old Fashioned’ was in 1888 in the Bartender’s Manual by Theodore Proulx, who tender the Chapin and Gore, Chicago. Chicago is argued as one of the hotspots for the drink. Post prohibition the Old Fashioned had its limelight and recently it’s popularity has grown even more.