Top 5 Old-Fashioned Cocktails in DFW-West
I’ll have an Old Fashioned, please!
The Old Fashioned is a timeless, classic cocktail with roots dating back to the 1800s. The Pendennis Club of Louisville is often credited with its origination in 1881 using bourbon made by James E. Pepper. However, its roots can be traced back to the earlier part of the century through letters and articles describing cocktails with similar recipes; this is now more of urban legend rather than history.
The first published sighting of a recipe titled an Old Fashioned was in Theodore Proulx’s book The Bartender’s Manual (1888). The original recipes were quite different from what we now know as Old Fashioned, consisting of sugar, ice, and the spirit. Eventually, bitters were introduced to cocktails, and other drinks, such as the Sazerac, were beginning to be introduced.
The recipe’s base now consists of muddled sugar or simple syrup, an ice cube, bitters, and the spirit. The spirit throughout history consists of either bourbon, rye, brandy, gin, or on occasion, an Irish or Scotch whiskey. However, unless you specify the spirit either in the name or in your request, it will generally be made with a Rye or Bourbon. Other variations of the old-fashioned will come in the form of a smoked, barrel-aged, or possibly a bartender’s choice, such as using a type of bitters other than the classic Angostura aromatic.
It was in July of 2022 that I started the journey of finding my top 5 old-fashioned cocktails. While I originally intended it to be for all of DFW, after having tried over 500 variations on just the west side, I quickly realized that I needed to focus on just the west side of the metroplex and have multiple categories. With the DFW airport as the center of the metro, it was an easy division. Now for the categories, that wasn’t as easy, with the final categories as follows, the classic, smoked, barrel-aged, unique recipe, and overall.
My criteria for each consisted of a good balance of flavors, presentation, and technique. I wasn’t going to include technique initially; however, after having a few drinks that were shaken and not stirred, it quickly became apparent that I needed to observe the bartender’s style.
So, without further ado, here are my Top 5 Old Fashioned Cocktails for DFW-West.
Classic Old Fashioned
The classic old-fashioned, while an easy recipe, is also one that is easy to mess up. This representation of this timeless cocktail relies on the mixologist’s ability to balance the flavors. Too much bitters or syrup will overpower the spirit. Muddling the cherry or orange peel could make it more like a fruit punch.
My choice comes from the Mercury Chophouse located in Arlington, TX. Head bartender Serapio Gonzales starts this version of with a Woodford Rye and creates a classic drink using Demerara syrup, Angostura bitters, a large ice ball, and a luxardo cherry for the garnish along with orange peel for garnish and coating the rim.
2221 E Lamar Blvd #910
Arlington, TX 76006
Smoked Old Fashioned
While it is not entirely known who first came up with the concept of smoking wood chips and then filling the rocks glass with the smoke, it is known that the trend started to take off in 2007 with esteemed bartender Eben Freeman came up with the now much-loved Waylon, which is a mix of smoked Coca-Cola and bourbon.
The recipe for the smoked stays the same as the classic; however, the complexity of balancing the smoke with the rest of the flavors is now added. Smoke the glass too long, and the smoke will overpower the drink; not long enough, and you might as well be drinking a classic.
There were several good entries for this category, but there can only be one winner. My choice for the smoked old-fashioned comes from Wilde Cigars. Kim Jackson, head bartender and bar manager will make this drink with your choice of bourbon or rye; I recommend rye. Following the classic recipe, Kim will burn a cherry pipe tobacco for the smoke, add the cocktail to a unique glass, add the smoke, and then present it to you corked and on top of your rocks glass, ready with the cherry and orange peel for you to pour into your glass.
301 W. Hidden Creek Parkway,
Burleson, TX 76028
Many bartenders will sometimes try to put a twist on this classic cocktail. However, only some can pull it off. Here, I present the category of the Unique Recipe Old Fashioned. The heart of the recipe will be followed with the spirit, bitters, simple syrup, garnishes, and ice. What makes the recipe unique is the twist the mixologist will put on the drink.
The winner for this category comes from Kelly (@MotheroftheLeaf on Instagram) at Michael’s Tobacco in Keller. For the NBK Old Fashioned, she used coffee to make the ice ball to create a coffee-infused old fashioned. As for the rest of the recipe, you’re just going to have to talk with her to see if she will share.
750 S Main St Suite 100
Keller, TX 76248
The barrel-aged Old Fashioned is yet another take on the classic recipe. With this interpretation, the bar will make a batch of the cocktail and then let it rest in a barrel, generally a smaller barrel of around 5 liters in volume. The resting time will vary from bar to bar, but, on average, the cocktail will rest for about 30 days before being served.
Harvest Hall Bar, located inside Hotel Vin Grapevine, brings their barrel-aged Old Fashioned into this category winner. Made with Heavens Door and aged in a house barrel adding deeper hints of vanilla, citrus, and oaky tannins.
815 S Main St
Grapevine, TX 76051
Overall Top Old Fashioned
Deciding upon the overall top old-fashioned for 2022 was a tough decision. After many cocktails and much deliberation, a demanding job I know, the winner goes to Kelly from Michael’s Tobacco. The balance between the bitters, simple syrup, and Rye whiskey brings perfection to this time-tested cocktail.
750 S Main St Suite 100
Keller, TX 76248