The question “What is an old-fashioned cocktail?” can have various answers depending on who you ask. For some it is merely a chilled punch made from mixing lemon juice and ice, adding simple syrup and brandy (not whiskey) to the glass, and garnished with an orange twist or cocktail cherry. For others it is synonymous with Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Old-Fashioned Distilled, each of which has a distinctly different way of making the drink but all of which incorporate elements from the classic martini.
Old Fashioneds are simply a variation on the Manhattan. They use vermouth (made from gin or dry sherry) as the base spirit but add different ingredients depending on whether it is an Old Fashioned or Old Fashioneds. Most bartenders will make a Manhattan from whatever is available; however, there are many bartenders who make a variation of the Manhattan using either sparkling water or frozen green soda. They may also garnish with an orange wedge or a cocktail cherry (also called a blood orange), which is basically a rock or dried orange peel that makes a great garnish.
Old Fashioneds differ from Manhattan in that they do not need a frozen martini; instead it is a regular bar drink that is made with gin, vermouth, soda, cream, or sugar. While this makes it simpler to serve (as well as cheaper), it sacrifices the complex flavor of the Manhattan. This version of the drink uses either sugar or amaretto and has either a very mild or sharp taste, depending on what kind of spirits are used and how much is added. Most bartenders will garnish with a blood orange or a cherry. A very potent Martini actually uses Campari or other spicy black liquid instead of the simple syrup and juice. Most bartenders will omit the Campari and replace it with a sugar cube or even a cookie.
Tonic, versions of what is an old fashioned are less common than the martini. In fact, most bartenders who try to make a tonic version of the drink will choose a simpler brand such as Bailey's Irish Cream or a simple syrup cube. This simplification results in a lower cost for the bartender, who can cut costs by using a lower quality product. Most tonic drinks call for a simple syrup cube, but a regular measuring spoon is all that is needed.
There are many different variations on what is an old fashioned and what is old-fashioned cocktails. The difference is usually determined by whether or not the ingredients have been left over from another drink or whether or not they are simply different methods of preparation. Many old fashioned requireennic acid, lemon, and ginger ale, as well as a simple syrup, but some modernists would add a simple syrup cube to their mix.
One of the oldest known drinks is the Manhattan. It is very similar to what is an old fashioned martini, except it calls for a frozen orange peel, lime, and lemon wedge. The frozen orange peel is shaved off the end of the wedge and used to flavor the drink. It can be garnished with an apple slice for a unique look. Other variations on the Manhattan include adding ginger ale and cream if the recipe was also made with this mixture.
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