A Kentucky Original….The Old Fashioned!

11997172_10102992041881010_424156341_nIf you live in Kentucky, then you know that September is National Bourbon Heritage Month! It’s really our highest of all high holidays! So that means that for the month of September, I will be celebrating by bringing you some bourbon hits and the history that comes with them.

This week we are going to start out with the first known bourbon cocktail, and possibly the first “cocktail” ever, the Old Fashioned. It is thought that the first use of the name “Old Fashioned” was used at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. At the time, the Pendennis Club was a very popular gentleman’s

The original Pendennis Club. Photograph courtesy of www.wikipedia.com

The original Pendennis Club.
Photograph courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.com

club, and since it was in Louisville, I’m sure the bourbon (and good bourbon at that) flowed freely. The club was established in 1881 and it is thought that the drink was made by the bartender to honor Colonel James E. Pepper. Pepper was a distiller of fine bourbons. The Colonel promptly took that drink to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, where it began its journey to fame! It was thought that a concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar (what would be known as the drink that brought on the name “cocktail”) was where the Old Fashioned got its start. It was first

Colonel James E. Pepper himself! Photograph courtesy of www.jamesepepper.com

Colonel James E. Pepper himself!
Photograph courtesy of http://www.jamesepepper.com

recorded in 1806 in an issue of The Balance and Columbian Repository. The combination spirits, bitters, water, and sugar fell out of favor for period of time, before making itself known again around 1833, however, Rum, Gin or Brandy were used in place of the Bourbon and nutmeg was also used as a garnish.

Leave it to a bluegrass bartender to come up with the perfect combination using Bourbon! Since the drink had been around for a while, but hadn’t gained its popularity yet, they called it “Old Fashioned”. Kind of like we call things from that period old fashioned, to the bartender, at the time ideas and drinks from 50 years prior were old fashioned!



The first recipe for this drink was published in 1895 by George Kappeler. He wrote as follows:

“Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail
Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass;
add two dashes Angostura bitters,
a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel,
one jigger whiskey.
Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.”

The original Pepper Distillery. Photograph courtesy of www.jamesepepper.com

The original Pepper Distillery.
Photograph courtesy of http://www.jamesepepper.com

Variations were made over the years, trying out different spirits or syrups instead of the lump sugar, but bartenders kept coming back to the original recipe!

Today, we stick mostly to the original recipe, but like to garnish with orange slices and cherries, for a little pizazz!

As for drink ware for your cocktail, life has made it an easy choice….the Old Fashioned glass! It is basically a short tumbler. They are described as “a glass typically having a wide brim and a thick base, so that the non-liquid ingredients of a cocktail can be mashed using a muddler before the main liquid ingredients are added.” However, you can use any type of glass that will withstand muddled ingredients. Dixie and Solo cups will work if you are at a tailgate or picnic, as long as you don’t get over zealous with your muddling!

So, now that I’ve given you the history, I will give you the official recipe!


Old Fashioned – Makes 1 Drink


2 shots of good Kentucky Bourbon
2 dashes of Angostura bitters (found in the specialty section of your local liquor store)
1 Sugar cube
2 Dashes of plain water
Orange slice and cherries for garnish


– Place sugar cube in the bottom of your glass. Saturate it with bitters and water.

– Muddle together, until sugar is dissolved.

– Fill the glass with ice.

– Add Bourbon.

– Garnish with orange slice and cherries.


I’ve heard bartenders complain about having to make this drink, because it is fairly involved and they have a lot of people to serve! However, I know you will impress your guests when you serve it at your next dinner party during the cocktail hour!

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1 Response to A Kentucky Original….The Old Fashioned!

  1. Contributor says:

    Reblogged this on Everything Kentucky! and commented:
    We are celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month in Kentucky and Callie gives us a wonderful history of the first bourbon cocktail.

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