Food & Drink

The Hunt For Augusta’s Best Old Fashioned

I visited 8 of Augusta's most-recommended spots in search of the best Old Fashioned. For such a classic cocktail, you'd be surprised how unique they all were.

The Old-Fashioned. Perhaps the most quintessentially perfect cocktail. All of our bartenders agreed it’s a classic that one must master in this biz. While the OF has evolved over the last 100+ years to include sundry flourishes, the OG OF must remain loyal to four ingredients: whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water/ice. Because there are so few ingredients in this spirit-forward cocktail, they should be of high-quality. It’s all about balance.

So what was I looking for on this tour? I expected recipe loyalty, but I also like a little adulteration (read bartender flair) as long as it’s not blasphemous. I love a swill of bitters in the glass and orange spritzed + rubbed on the rim. A big, sexy cube of ice is de rigueur. And if there’s a cherry? It better not be neon red.

*The bartenders featured here were nominated by my Instagram followers.

Noble Jones

Bartender: Sarah

Sarah made two unconventional OFs, harnessing flames for each drink to caramelize sugar + express citrus oils. She’s a true artist. I love that she used rye. The creaminess in the toasted marshmallow persimmon OF was unexpected. The drink tasted like a cozy campfire and I applaud her swagger. Sarah has finesse and her drinks taste like pure poetry.

Craft & Vine

Bartender: Calvin

Calvin chose a barrel strength 116 proof whiskey (Beau Jack from Second City Distillery in Augusta) + Regan’s orange bitters (42% alcohol). The strong presence of orange bitters gave it a clean + pure taste. And then there’s the way he slaps his zest.

Edgar’s Above Broad

Bartender: Tito

Tito’s recipe is steadfast; his style of drink is a typically sought after OF with all the nostalgia. Classic. Absolutely classic. Big cube. Big orange peel. Two of the things I love about an OF. And Tito danced on the Boozy Photo Booth webcam with us, so…

Finch & Fifth

Bartender: Bradley

To complement his choice of 1792, Bradley used orange bitters + black walnut bitters, which create a viscous texture. I love the addition of walnut bitters for their earthiness and their silky mouthfeel. And then there’s that slow-melting, hefty cube…

Indian Queen

Bartender: Sean

Sean prefers to use Bulliet rye, which has a certain spiciness. He also added one of those muy delicioso cherries. Those cherries soak in a liqueur made from grinding their pits (among other things), so there’s an essence of almond in this drink.

Whiskey Bar

Bartender: Brittney

Brittney used not only orange but also lemon for spritzing and rubbing around the rim. The lemon’s oil is fragrant + adds some zing, which is nice in a heavy, spirit-forward drink. It was very traditional; loyal to the original recipe. I like all the citrus. And I really like that she iced + stirred the cocktail, then poured it into a new glass with fresh ice.

Arsenal Tap Room + Kitchen

Bartender: Frankie & Meghan

Old Fashioned (left) New Fashioned (right)

For the classic Old Fashioned, Frankie used a really good cherry (Luxardo) and a very deliberate twist of orange to express the oils. There’s a reason why the Old Fashioned survived Prohibition, and Frankie likes to keep it that way. It was sweet. A great version of the classic. And you know I love the bougie cherry, especially complemented by the tart orange oil.

For the New Fashioned, Meghan added tuaca, a vanilla-flavored brandy liqueur with hints of citrus. Her base liquor is Sazerac rye which tastes of spice + caramel with light oakiness. Meghan’s New Fashioned hits different. The vanilla gives it a lovely fragrance – reminiscent of Vanilla Coke.

Sheehan’s Irish Pub

Bartender: Megan

Megan chose to remove the peel from the orange and muddled the fruit, giving the drink a beautiful pink hue. Her OF is very cold, which was a welcomed diversion given the temperature of the day. I like that she took what is known to be a warming cocktail and made it refreshing. It probably deserves its own name.

An over-proofed spirit with a touch of sugar + bitters + water to quell that spirit’s temper. That’s an Old-Fashioned. With a recipe so rigid, how does one choose the best among eight bartenders? The truth is: I can’t. But I appreciated how each bartender signed their masterpieces.

Congratulations to all the nominees. If people say I am overly obsessed with bartenders, they are not wrong.

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