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Book Review: The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail

OFGiven the recent onslaught of titles dedicating themselves to a single spirit or beverage, the bookshelf of the cocktail connoisseur may find itself with a little less room to spare these days. Thankfully Albert Schmid’s paean The Old Fashioned is compact enough at 110 pages to fit right in, leaving room for those massive wine and cocktail tomes we’ve been reviewing as of late.

From the onset, The Old Fashioned delves deep into comprehensive historical research, covering such topics as the curious etymology of the word “cocktail” and the debate on the drink’s fabled origin. Schmid gives the reader an appropriate appreciation of the drink’s long and storied journey into becoming a staple of nearly every respectable drinking establishment. However, unlike some books thick on Kentucky history, he trims the fat of excessive facts and fables, presenting only what’s vital to understanding the Old Fashioned’s migration from Kentucky to New York City, around the world and back again.

Schmid spends considerable time discussing the fundamental elements of the Old Fashioned and walks the reader through an easy-to-use template. He also reinforces just how widespread and diverse the Old Fashioned has become throughout the years with a final section heavy on variations. Most of these recipes are pretty easy to try at home and require minimal digging for obscure ingredients. Some date back as far as the 1880s (a testament to Schimd’s scholarship), while others belong to modern mixologists currently giving the classic their own unique spin.

The beauty of this book is in its simplicity. It doesn’t try to be all things to every aspect of the cocktail. While it strives to be definitive, it doesn’t weigh the reader down with the heavy baggage of detailed, complex history. The Old Fashioned would make an ideal gift (and a value at $10) for any die-hard fan of one of whiskey’s time-honored cocktails, or for newer drinkers looking to pair a great story with a compelling drink.


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The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail



Rob Theakston

Rob Theakston is a contributing editor to Drinkhacker.

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