The Perdennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky is said to be responsible for the very first Old Fashioned. In 1880, a bartender named James Pepper supposedly invented the drink, later taking the recipe with him to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City. However, love for the bourbon and bitters mixture apparently stayed strong in Louisville, because in 2015 the city named it their Official Cocktail. During the first two weeks of every June, Old Fashioned Fortnight is celebrated, ending with National Bourbon Day on June 14th.
The name Old Fashioned was originially simply a way to refer to a way to take one’s whiskey. It became posh to order whiskey “the old fashioned way”, and this phrase was used until eventually the name stuck and it was simply called The Old Fashioned. Throughout the past hundred or so years, the Old Fashioned has also been referred to as “a bittered sling”, due to the bitters and sugar always present in the recipe. The basis of the drink has always included water, bitters, and sugar, though has been seen to have rum, gin, or brandy instead of whiskey. By 1895, the drink was published in Modern American Drinks, along with other cocktail staples of the time, such as the Daquiri, the Jack Rose, the Manhattan, the Martini, and the Side Car. These are generally considered to be the six staple drinks one should know, according to David Embury in his book, “The Fine Art of Mixing Cocktails,” published in 1948.
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