The Old Fashioned was certainly not the first cocktail, but its popularity and versatility over generations has made it perhaps the most classic of classic cocktails. Your devoted Drinkhacker cocktail sleuths have unearthed several variations over the years (Brown Butter and Oaxaca to name just a few). We’ve even shown you (at length) how to make the perfect Old Fashioned. Still, there seems to always be another method or tweak to this timeless tipple that warrants the cocktail-lover’s attention, and one I know all bourbon fans, especially Pappy hounds, will appreciate is this, the Van Winkle Old Fashioned.
On the surface this is just an Old Fashioned, but then again, it isn’t. For one, this is how Julian Van Winkle III, grandson of Pappy Van Winkle, personally makes his Old Fashioned. He’s shared the recipe over the years, such that it has ended up on the menus of some pretty impressive southern bars, Sean Brock’s Husk among them. Naturally, Julian’s recipe calls for his namesake bourbon, which for many is too precious to dilute, but Julian himself encourages such sacrilege.
What makes this drink truly unique is not the expensive bourbon it calls for but the way in which it is prepared. Most Old Fashioneds are a hurried mix of muddle and stir, but Julian’s recipe calls for careful preparation, the kind that $50 (or more) worth of bourbon deserves. It’s essentially an elaborate layering process whereby small amounts of bourbon are slowly combined into the drink with a final, unmixed bourbon topper. Such a process isn’t typical of most Old Fashioned recipes, and it yields a very different drinking experience, one that starts off bold and bourbon heavy and evolves as the ice dilutes the whiskey and mixes with the syrup. While Julian clearly doesn’t think his family’s whiskey is too good to mix with, it’s no surprise he prefers a cocktail that preserves a glimpse, however fleeting, of the unadulterated Pappy at its core.
Van Winkle Old Fashioned
2.5 oz. Pappy Van Winkle bourbon (10- or 15-year preferably)
2 raw sugar cubes
5 dashes Angostura bitters
5 dashes orange bitters
Soak two raw sugar cubes with Angostura and orange bitters over a napkin. Discard the napkin with the excess bitters and add the sugar cubes to an Old Fashioned glass along with an orange slice. Muddle sugar cubes and orange slice (avoiding the bitter pith) with a small amount of whiskey until almost completely dissolved. Add one ounce of bourbon and combine. Add another ounce of bourbon and one large ice cube and stir to chill and combine. Top off with the remaining half ounce of bourbon. No garnish.