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Long before “Mad Men’s” Don Draper was sipping an Old-Fashioned on one of the small screen’s hottest TV shows, the cocktail was a popular drink in Bourbon Country. Ever since the 1800s.
It all began at the Pendennis Club, a private club still in operation in Louisville. Legend has it that a guest at the bar ordered a cocktail, but warned the bartender that he wasn’t a fan of bourbon. Not wanting to serve a non-bourbon drink in the Bluegrass (it is Bourbon Country, afterall), the bartender concocted a drink that ended up being a huge hit with the customer. And though similar versions were possibly being mixed in the same time period, the now traditional bourbon cocktail is said to have been popularized by Pendennis club member and master distiller, Colonel James E. Pepper, who introduced the cocktail to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was also the first documented proof of a recipe being called the “Old Fashioned” versus any drink made in the “old-fashioned way” which was mixing spirits with sweetener and fruit.
Louisville laid claim to this spirited history in 2015 when the city’s Mayor proclaimed the Old Fashioned “Louisville’s Official Cocktail”.
Each year, for the first two weeks of June, Louisville celebrates Old Fashioned Fortnight which encompasses bourbon events, cocktail specials and National Bourbon Day on June 14th.
Quench your thirst by ordering up an Old-Fashioned at any of the 30 + restaurants and bars along Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail.
The original Pendennis Club recipe:
2 ounces fine Kentucky Bourbon
1 tsp. simple syrup (or ½ lump of sugar)
½ slice orange
1 cherry with stem
1 lemon twist
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Mix sugar, water and Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, stir and enjoy.