Certain things in life are just better together; milk and cookies, salt and pepper, and peanut butter and jelly are just a few well-known perfect pairs. Why only have one of these things when the real magic happens when you combine it with something else? Just like the Kentucky Derby and Bourbon.
Ask anyone what the state of Kentucky is known for, and it won’t take long for them to mention the Kentucky Derby and bourbon.
The Kentucky Derby is a historic sporting event on the first Saturday in May. This year it will run on Saturday, May 7th. While the mint julep is the official drink of the derby, with over 120,000 mint juleps served over the derby weekend each year, I prefer the Classic Old Fashioned as my derby day cocktail.
So if you’re planning a Kentucky Derby party this year, go beyond the classic mint julep and include the traditional old-fashioned on your menu.
Call Me Old Fashioned
Even if you know nothing about cocktails, you’ve at least heard of an Old Fashioned. It’s a cocktail designed to highlight its main ingredient – bourbon! It’s simple; it’s made with four ingredients – whiskey, sugar, Angostura bitters, an optional (but recommended) orange peel, and a Luxardo cherry garnish.
This classic cocktail is a stirred drink, usually built in the glass in which it is served.
2 oz. Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2 dashes of Reagan’s Orange Bitters
STEP 1 Add the ingredients to the serving glass
STEP 2 Rub the orange peel around the inside of the glass
STEP 3 Add a large ice cube to the glass
STEP 4 Stir and garnish with the orange peel and Luxardo cherry
The Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned
The best bourbon for an Old Fashioned is the bourbon you like! I prefer mine with bourbon, and my favorite for this cocktail is Woodford Reserve, but other mid-tier bourbons like Maker’s Mark, Bulleit, or Knob Creek would all be excellent. Many mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts have an opinion on whether you should use rye or bourbon, but honestly, you can use either.
The Best Sugar for an Old Fashioned
Many mixologists feel the proper thing to do is muddle a sugar cube with the bitters in the bottom of the rocks glass. Some suggest adding club soda to help the cube dissolve, which takes away from the beautiful richness of the bourbon. After testing this out, I found that the sugar cube never fully dissolves and leaves a gritty texture to the cocktail.
Simple syrup is the best choice. It makes mixing and getting the appropriate amount of sweetness much more manageable and is readily available. Making your own is also simple, hence the name.
The Best Cherries for an Old Fashion
Cocktail cherries are among the best garnishes when looking for a simple yet elegant way to finish your old-fashioned. They have the perfect sweetness, and their syrup is an excellent addition to a cocktail. My favorite brand is Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, the original decadent cocktail cherry.
The Best Bitters for an Old Fashioned
Bitters are small bottles of spirits infused with botanicals (herbs and spices) used to flavor cocktails. They’re essential in creating the perfect old fashion, and the market is full of a wide selection from traditional to craft bitters.
My favorite is Angostura bitters, which combine bitter and spicy flavors with hints of clove and cinnamon. When creating the perfect old-fashioned, I find that a blend of 3 dashes of Angostura and 3 dashes of orange bitters works best.
The Best Ice Cube for an Old Fashioned
Elevate your home cocktail to bar-style quality by using a single large ice cube. You might be wondering the reason for the larger cube. A larger cube will melt slower, slowing the drink’s dilution. When it comes to the ice cube, go big or go home.
You don’t have to be at Churchill Downs to enjoy the taste of a proper cocktail. Shake up your home bar
options for the big day with this classic recipe and tips for your Kentucky Derby Party.