"The reasoning behind the Old Fashioned dates back to its first printed definition in an 1806 newspaper editorial in New York's Hudson Valley. It was originally defined as 'sugar, water, bitters, and spirit of any kind.' While most people associate the Old Fashioned with American whiskey and Angostura bitters, the original definition clearly gives us lots of wiggle room.
I love Scotch Old Fashioneds sweetened with a touch of honey and dashes of orange and celery bitters. Rum Old Fashioneds prepared with a funky aged rhum agricole, sweetened with cane sugar, and bittered with Peychaud's is a treat. Grade B maple syrup paired with root beer bitters plays fabulously with a malty genever. The list goes on and on, and I haven't even started talking about using potable bitters (Italy, Germany, and Hungary are renowned for their bittersweet herbal liqueurs), which can frequently pull double duty as both sweetening and bittering agents. If I have to pick one drink, the sheer flexibility of the Old Fashioned's template gives me a lifetime's worth of experimentation to explore and enjoy." - Joaquín Simó, Pouring Ribbons (New York, NY)
"If I could only drink one drink for the rest of my life, it would be the Old Fashioned and all of its variations. Simple to make, but so complex in flavor, and swapping out the spirit allows for me to never get bored!" - Jamie Boudreau, Canon (Seattle, WA)
"The Old Fashioned as a style of drink is both extremely simple and extremely versatile. Sugar, bitter, spirit, and (maybe?) a little ice. Your sugars/sweeteners can change with mood, season, spirit, or cupboard, and the bitters can enhance a favored flavor or mask an undesirable quality in a spirit.
In terms of spirits, I'd choose rum... it's just so tasty. It can be light and dry, it can be dark and rich, it can be fruity or spicy, vegetal or like candy. And you can mix them! Our rum Old Fashioned at The Hawthorne has the slightly funky Jamaican Appleton Reserve, the deliciously rich El Dorado 15-year from Guyana, and Batavia arrack, which is wild on its own, but brings a brightness to the Old Fashioned. Rum's diversity and the Old Fashioned’s structure as a cocktail make it a winner for my lonely eternity on an island." - Jackson Cannon, The Hawthorne and Eastern Standard (Boston, MA)
"I've always appreciated cocktails that are free of superfluous ingredients, and the Old Fashioned doesn't have any fat on it. As a whiskey enthusiast, I take comfort in the fact that any style of whiskey will work in that cocktail. As a bartender, it's always good to have a few cocktails in your back pocket that will appeal to cocktail enthusiasts and novices alike.” - Benjamin Schiller, Berkshire Room (Chicago, IL)