The History Behind the Old Fashioned

Walk into any bar, and you can always order the trendiest cocktail or craft beer on the menu. But sometimes, sticking with “tried and true” is best. Such is the case with the Old Fashioned, which is one of the world’s most beloved cocktails. In fact, it is one of the most frequently Googled cocktails for drink recipes. It’s also one of the most commonly ordered drinks on a first date. Popular worldwide, it has an especially high volume of cult followers in the United States. Although there are some modern twists on the original version, the base cocktail remains largely the same. And for good reason – its beauty lies in its simplicity and broad appeal. Today, you’ll find the Old Fashioned on most bar menus. In addition to being tasty, it also has considerable history behind it.

Origins of the Old Fashioned

According to history, this legendary drink originated in Louisville, Kentucky. The blueprint for the drink was created at the elite Pendennis Club, which was an exclusive private club for socialites in Louisville. Following a recipe similar to what the Old Fashioned contains today, the resident bartender concocted a minimalist drink highlighting the taste of quality bourbon (the bartender himself was a bourbon aficionado) but made it slightly sweeter and easier to drink. The recipe was a hit. It was soon transported to the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Bartenders there perfected the recipe, which was met with enthusiasm by politicians, celebrities, and wealthy Americans.

Word of this exceptional new cocktail spread quickly. The trend was picked up by The Chicago Tribune in 1880, which labeled the drink an “old-fashioned” cocktail. The name stuck for a drink that despite its growing fame, didn’t yet have a name. Curiosity about this revolutionary drink spread quickly. It also prompted Americans to request the drink in their own local bars. Soon, a drink that originated in the American elite social sphere became accessible to the masses. For a while, it was so popular and trendy that it was the only drink many people would order at a bar.

The Ultimate Buzzkill

By this point, you’re probably wondering what happened to the drink during Prohibition. Prohibition was a federal ban, enforced by the Constitution, on the production, transportation, importation, and distribution of alcoholic substances between 1920 and 1933. However, this law, which was codified in the 18th Amendment, did not prohibit consumption of alcohol. Although Americans could not go out to a bar and order a drink during the Prohibition Era, there were no legal restrictions to consuming alcohol in the privacy of their own homes. Fortunately, many Americans were aware of the impending Prohibition Era. Not knowing if or when they’d be able to purchase alcoholic beverages again, Americans stockpiled bourbon, whiskey, wine, and other spirits in their homes. Many knew the recipe of their favorite drink enough to recreate the standard version. But by the time Prohibition ended, they were met with disappointment.

Reinventing the Wheel

The end of Prohibition was met by joy and relief by many. But for fans of the Old Fashioned cocktail, the re-opening of American bars was disappointing. Many bartenders started altering the classic recipe. They added soda water, powdered sugar, cherries, pineapple, oranges, and other flavors. Still, they marketed and sold the drink under the same name. This angered many purists, who insisted on having their favorite cocktails the “old-fashioned” way. However, the contemporary take on the classic Old Fashioned proved just as delightful for others. As a compromise, many bars around the country were still happy to make customers drinks using the classic recipe. But others also flaunted variations on their menus.

Change, for the Better?

The drink recipe that emerged in New York is very similar to what you can order today. Ice, a sugar cube doused in bitters, and several ounces of whiskey were the few simple ingredients. A slice of lemon, orange peel, or other garnish adds decoration and a bit of citrus flavor to make it more palatable. Some bars go a step further, giving their innovative drinks a different name altogether and deliberately incorporating local history into the mix. Such is the case with Zeppelin’s “Uncle Eddy,” which is a variation on a popular drink that pays homage to local and national history alike.

About “Uncle Eddy”

“Uncle Eddy” is a variation on the classic drink that you’ll only find at Zeppelin in South End, Charlotte. South End is the birthplace of “Uncle Eddy.” The Uncle Eddy cocktail, patrons and bartenders agree, is certainly a cocktail that Thomas Edison, an American inventor who the drink is named after, would enjoy. The drink honors the fact that Thomas Edison met in Charlotte with a local prominent businessman named Edward Latta in an attempt to extract gold (which fueled the economy in the late 1880s) from soils in the United States using electricity. Although the idea was there, it never quite panned out. Instead, the duo created the city’s first railway, which traveled from the South End to Dilworth. All this was accomplished with good food and drink, which Zeppelin still proudly serves today.

What’s Our Secret?

Combining history with modern innovation, “Uncle Eddy” is a unique twist on the original recipe. Here’s what it includes:

• Waygu Fat-Washed Bourbon

• Slow Ginger Syrup

• Buckspice Bitters

• Cold-Smoked King Cube

What makes this contemporary Old-Fashioned stand out is the fact that it builds on history with an innovative twist. Simultaneously sticking to the past while incorporating some new flavors, this drink is designed to remind patrons of history while also accommodating changing flavors and needs. After all, its inspiration – Thomas Edison – had an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit himself. If nothing changes, nothing new can truly be discovered. Whether you live here or you’re visiting, be sure to stop by for our popular cocktail and some delicious food, which clearly shows pride in our roots but incorporates modern tastes, too.