The Old Fashioned cocktail is the most American cocktail you can find. But did you know it wasn’t always made with bourbon whiskey? “Old Fashioned” referred to the method of preparing a drink the “old fashioned” way by dissolving a lump of sugar with water, bitters and a lemon peel. The original spirit was gin. Who knew? Bourbon is now the spirit of choice and there are some great places in Orlando to enjoy this classic on National Bourbon Day and any day.
A bit of Old Fashioned History…
According to Wikipedia, the “Old Fashioned” with Bourbon whiskey cocktail was created at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky, in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller.
The city of Louisville named the Old Fashioned as its official cocktail in 2015. During the first two weeks of June, the city of Louisville celebrates “Old Fashioned Fortnight” with a variety of fun events leading up to “National Bourbon Day” on June 14.
The Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe
The classic Old Fashioned cocktail recipe from George Kappeler’s 1895 book calls for you to “dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass, add two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, and one (2 oz) jigger of whiskey.”
The cherry garnish was introduced in the 1930s. Muddling oranges or adding an orange peel became popular in the 1990s. Today, the cocktail remains a classic although bartenders around the globe look to add their signature with slight variations.
Where to Find The Best Old Fashioned Cocktail in Orlando?
The Smoked Old Fashioned at American Social on “Restaurant Row” (Sand Lake Road) is a drink and show in one. Just sit back and watch the bartender’s magic. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon is infused with just the right touch of smoke. It’s smooth and refined. Some would say it’s a great entry level bourbon cocktail it was so easy to drink. Pair it with goat cheese croquettes or ribs or chicken wings, your call. The relative newcomer to the Orlando scene is a fun spot to watch the game or get together with friends over happy hour. The bar is definitely the place to be!
Bull & Bear at Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Colonel James E. Pepper brought the recipe from Louisville to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel bar in New York to share with prominent drinking buddies like John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, C.V. Vanderbilt, Charles A. Pillsbury, and Charles L. Tiffany. This is how the cocktail became famous!
Bull & Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando Resort follows this long tradition of excellence but it’s no surprise the legendary steakhouse adds its own flair to the classic recipe. 8 year old Rhum Barbancourt, Old Forrester bourbon, Vanilla Pepper Syrup, Barrel Aged Bitters and Creole Bitters come together beautifully.
Pair it with the best french fries you will find anywhere in the world, the Bull & Bear Frittes are 100% Idaho hand cut tallow potatoes with garlic aioli. And if you’re hungry, order the fried chicken. Trust me, you’ve never had fried chicken like this. It doesn’t get any more American than that!
Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport
The Public House Old Fashioned at Cask & Larder is a tough one to come by unless you’re traveling in or out of Orlando International Airport Terminal 2. Made with brown butter infused Old Forrester Bourbon, honey simple syrup, Angostura and orange bitters. It may be worth the price of a ticket. It certainly makes air travel more enjoyable.
Pair it with one of the many local flavors on the menu of this “Farm to Terminal” gem, created by James and Julie Petrakis, the same folks as The Ravenous Pig. Or if you’re like me with little time to spare at the airport, just sip it before your flight and run.
Dexter’s New Standard
This newcomer is probably my new favorite. The Pistachio Old Fashioned at Dexter’s New Standard in Winter Park is truly crafted. The chef sous vide the pistachios in Old Forester Bourbon. You truly get those pistachio notes beautifully blended. It was damn delicious. Pair it with pretty much anything you want. Cheese, Charcuterie, Harvest Board, Bread Board, Oysters. You can’t go wrong with the elevated yet unpretentious menu by Chef Ryan McLoughlin. Read more about this new restaurant and my 9 reasons to visit.
Domu at East End Market (and soon in Dr. Phillips) not only serves up the best ramen in the state of Florida according to the USA Today and Orlando locals, but their cocktails are not far behind in the ‘excellent’ category. They serve two Old Fashioned cocktails with a Japanese twist.
The Toki Old Fashioned made with Suntori Toki Japanese Whisky, ginger and lemon bitters and Smoked Old Fashioned with Mars Iwai Japanese Whisky, cinnamon, demerara and Angostura aromatic bitters. Pair with the extra crispy Domu Wings (also nationally recognized!) or the Richie Rich Ramen. It’s a Japanese American marriage made in heaven!
Myth Bar at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
Myth Bar located in the lobby of the gorgeous Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort gives the classic cocktail a Caribbean twist. Sip the Rum Old Fashioned made with Brugal 1888, a fantastic Dominican rum, infused with dried black cherries, Demerara sugar and orange bitters.
Myth Bar evokes the legend of the Bonnet Sisters, the fashionable women who grace the ceiling of the hotel lobby. The story goes, they summered with their family at Bonnet Creek Estate and would frolic in the water, dreaming of being transformed into mermaids. A few of these Old Fashioned cocktails and you may have similar delusions. Pair it with a Charcuterie Board or Tapas Board of Potato Bravas, aged Manchego, olives and deviled eggs.
Plancha at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Plancha, the Cuban inspired restaurant at The Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, is a bit of a hidden gem even for locals. It’s a relaxing lakeside spot for casual brunch or lunch any day you want to escape the daily grind. Their Cuban Old Fashioned is made with Bulleit Bourbon and plantain syrup. Yes, you read that right. Ripe plantains are used to make a surprising syrup that takes this traditional cocktail to a whole new level. Pair it with their fantastic Guacamole with Naan Chips, Cuban Sandwich with roast pork and Black Forest Ham or the Plancha Burger with chorizo and beef patty. You will feel like you’ve teleported yourself to the Caribbean.
The Ravenous Pig
The Ravenous Pig, James and Julie Petrakis’ Swine Restaurant Group flagship restaurant in Winter Park, is known for its pork-centric menu. It’s no surprise their Old Fashioned Cocktail would follow suit. Bacon lovers from around the world rejoice!
The Ravenous Pig’s Old Fashioned made with bacon infused Old Forester bourbon, vanilla maple and orange bitters garnished with house cured candied bacon is everything you want and more. Even Alton Brown made a special stop during his AB Road Eats tour to enjoy the fab concoction. Pair it with a charcuterie board of house cured meats or their famed short rib brisket pub burger. It’s all it’s cracked up to be!
The Smiling Bison
The Smiling Bison has been delighting Orlando locals since 2013 and although it moved locations to historic downtown Sanford that has not deterred us from making the drive. Cocktails here follow a strong classic craft tradition with a twist and and their Old Fashioned is no different. Called the “Absent Minded” it’s a blend of Eagle Rare bourbon, Absinthe soaked cherries and fennel bitters. A few of these would definitely cause a loss of memory. Pair it with their fabulous Poutine, the Canadian comfort food staple of hand cut fries, mushroom gravy, and cheddar cheese curds provides the right amount of richness to stand up to the strong cocktail.
A swanky lounge reminiscent of the big band era, live jazz entertainment, classic “big city cocktails” and an approachable yet refined and menu is what you’ll find at Urbain 40 American Brasserie at Dellagio Plaza off Sand Lake Road. Here the original recipe is listed on the menu as “The First and Original American Cocktail” and you just don’t question what is in it. Pair it with their “Must Eat” Northeast Atlantic Coastal Mussels which come sizzling on a cast iron skillet, drenched in salt-roasted butter, lemon and white wine. The Pommes Frittes (French Fries) topped with black truffle salt (affectionately called “truffle crack”) are an addictive choice you won’t be able to resist. This is the kind of elevated neighborhood restaurant you wish every neighborhood had. I know I would be dining there at least once a week!
1921 Mt. Dora
A short 30 mile drive from Orlando, you’ll find 1921 Mt. Dora restaurant in the charming town of Mount Dora. The restaurant is an homage to Florida. It was first opened by legendary chef Norman Van Aken, he has since departed but the restaurant’s commitment to a high quality dining experience remains.
The 1921 Old Fashioned is made with Cask & Crew Rye whiskey, Cane Syrup, and Angostura Bitters. It feels like a Florida drink even though it’s made with New York whiskey. Pair it with the Smoky Maduro Plantain Flatbread topped with Aged Cheddar and Pork Jowl Bacon and you’ll definitely feel the love for the Sunshine state.
I hope this round up of the Best Old Fashioned Cocktails in Orlando inspires you to celebrate life with great food, drinks and friends. Go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time!
Have you discovered a favorite Old Fashioned cocktail? Please share in comments as I would love to add to this list.