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Old Fashioned Love Song

A Pair of Old-Fashioned cocktails at Ishnala in the Wisconsin Dells

No, this Old Fashion Love Song is not about the music and lyrics by either Three Dog Night or Paul Williams… It is all about an Old-Fashioned cocktail. Having, at times, tended bar at various restaurants and bars in Indiana, California, and Illinois, I had often heard of an Old Fashion, but had never actually had anyone ask me to make one. Which now seems rather incredulous. It is, however, true. As is the fact that I had never tasted one until mid-to late-2021.

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The important question now is: Why had I not tasted one? And the answer is: I have no idea! More important – at least for me – are these three questions. 1) are you aware of the history of the cocktail, 2) why is the drink so popular, and 3) how does one actually make/prepare an Old Fashion?

And by the way, there may be a bit of “discussion” regarding whether the proper moniker is “Old Fashioned” or “Old Fashion.” For whatever reason, I’ll use Old Fashioned Cocktail for this article, but I’m personally sticking with “Old Fashion.”

The history part is easy – well, kind of… With a little help, from Google of course, we find that – depending on where you start your search – the “Old Fashioned story” starts way back in 1806, when the meaning of “cock-tail” was questioned by a reader of a New York newspaper.

Old-Fashioned cocktails
Old-Fashioneds at Rice Lake Elks Lodge – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

The original recipe

The original drink recipe apparently came from a bartender’s guide in 1862 (that recipe was made using Holland Dry Gin). Another source claims it was invented in Louisville, Kentucky and brought to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City circa 1880 (with the drink being concocted with bourbon).

And according to the website blog on, “The Old-Fashioned was an evolution of the Whiskey Cocktail which was simply whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water, and was served as early as 1800 or so.”


It was not until the 1870s and 1880s when bartenders “began adding embellishments to their Whiskey Cocktails, some customers rebelled against the innovations.” From the same blog: “While similar in DNA, including the use of the Old-Fashioned name, the recipe never mentioned whiskey, which is widely accepted as the base spirit for today’s recipe.” The original – made with Gin? Really?

Simple Recipe

And then I discovered the following article: “The Real Story Behind Why Wisconsinites Drink Brandy Old-Fashioneds.” I’ll let you read the article and decide for yourself. Old-Fashioneds made with Brandy seem to have it hands down (or should I say bottoms up?). But the recipe – original, old, or new – for an Old Fashioned is quite simple: bitters, sugar, whiskey (you choose the flavor), a cherry & slice of orange and a splash of soda (sweet or not). Various choices include rye whisky, bourbon whisky, blended whisky, or brandy. The result depends on the “touch” of your favorite bartender’s hands. Enjoy your favorite recipe of an old-fashioned with your next dinner – prost !!

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Visit Rice Lake Design Team

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We became full-time residents of the City of Rice Lake in 2021. It has been our goal and desire to contribute and give back to the City in a manner that will be as helpful as possible. It is also our goal to dedicate our efforts – and a steadily progressing and growing website – to the people and businesses of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.

Yvonne & Richard