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?
Bull & Bear
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!
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!
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 superbly crafted menu by one of the best chef’s in Orlando, Tim Keating, 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 by Norman Van Aken
A short 30 mile drive from Orlando, you’ll find distinguished Chef Norman Van Aken’s 1921 restaurant in the charming town of Mount Dora. The restaurant is an homage to Florida for this legendary chef known as the “Founding Father of New World Cuisine.”
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.