Gentlemen Prefer Old Fashioned

by Kari Walker

Everything old is new again, including this classic whiskey cocktail. Take a trip around town and experience it three different ways.

The Old Fashioned is nothing new - or is it? The beloved drink, known simply as a "whiskey cocktail" until the late 19th century, earned its present name when other drinks (like the martini) gained pizazz and the Old Fashioned remained the same - whiskey, a touch of water, bitters, sweetener, muddled citrus and, of course, a maraschino cherry. The blend is then served over ice in a glass bearing the same name.

Photos by Kari Walker

Old Fashioned from Don's Seafood

It's often a drink of nostalgia, but when Mad Men's Don Draper became known for the drink in 2007, the Old Fashioned came back into the spotlight. Local watering holes in Lafayette have embraced the trend and experimented with a renaissance of the classic cocktail.

Michael Walker, an aficionado of the whiskey cocktail (and my husband), served as INDEats' official taster, as he enjoys the drink because it brings back memories of his grandfather who is now deceased - a sensory trip back to times he spent with "Big Daddy."

First stop was Pamplona Tapas Bar & Restaurant in Downtown Lafayette where the cocktail starts with bourbon whiskey, an orange peel seasoned with three types of bitters, a locally-sourced cane sugar, house-made simple syrup and a house-brandied cherry - the frosty glass was empty in no time. "I liked the non-traditional, non-muddled approach," Walker says. "The variety of bitters enhances the flavor and the cherry - it was the best part of the drink. I wish I had five more.

Pamplona's Old Fashioned

"The knowledge of the bar staff also makes the drink," he continues. "It's not just Happy Hour; it's an educational experience for those who like cocktails."

Social Southern Table and Bar's Bee Old Fashion is another makeover of the classic and one of the hottest selling drinks on the menu.

Social's Old Fashioned

The Bee starts with Eagle Rare Bourbon, a single barrel bourbon whiskey made exclusively for Social and Charley G's. Here, too, muddled fruit is ditched and replaced with orange bitters. A touch of brown sugar sweetness finishes the drink with a house-made simple syrup.

The results: Brown sugar gives the whiskey a unique character, and lack of fruit allows the aroma of the whiskey to shine.

Finally, we made our way to an establishment quite possibly known more for its Old Fashioned than its seafood - Don's Seafood & Steakhouse. The ingredients are textbook consisting of Maker's Mark whiskey, simple syrup, bitters, orange and a maraschino cherry.

But what makes Don's extra special is a little lagniappe - a rock candy swizzle stick. The patron can self-muddle his fruit into the beverage and, of course, slurp up the fruity mix off the candy.

"When I want a drink that's classic, I like [the Old Fashioned] at Don's," Walker says. "It's a Lafayette tradition."

And while men around town may have a love for the whiskey cocktail, over the Old Fashioned tour this girl's palate has also grown to appreciate the different tastes of what makes each drink unique. There is really no wrong way to pay homage to this classic, but one thing is for sure - the Old Fashioned is no longer just a drink of the past.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe
In honor of EatLafayette, INDEats intern Camille LeJeune shared her great grandmother Sidoux LeJeune's favorite recipe for making an Old Fashioned. The recipe appeared in the 1937 recipe book "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em" by Stanley Clisby Arthur.

Says Camille: "The author even wrote and signed a personal note to my great grandparents: For Sidoux and Arthur, good fellows, good mixers - good friends.'"

"My great grandmother used to make them by the jug and keep them in the freezer," she says. Camille's father, Sterling LeJeune, who knows a thing or two about Old Fashioneds, swears by this recipe.

1 lump sugar
2 dashes Peychaud or Angostura bitters
1 jigger rye whiskey
1 piece lemon peel
1 chunk pineapple
1 slice orange peel
2 maraschino cherries


Into a heavy bottomed bar glass drop a lump of sugar, dash on the bitters, and crush with a spoon. Pour in the jigger of rye whiskey and stir with several lumps of ice. No shaking allowed! Let the mixture remain in the glass in which it is prepared. Garnish with a half-ring of orange peel, add the chunk of pineapple and the cherries with a little of the maraschino juice. Twist the slice of lemon peel over all and serve in the mixing glass with the barspoon.

The author writes below the recipe: "Don't let anyone tell you that gin, rum, or brandy can take the place of whiskey in an Old Fashioned. Turn a deaf ear to such heresy" and later refers to prohibition as "the Great Mistake."