Today’s drink of the day is the plain and simple Bourbon Cocktail — in all of its forms.
Actually, the drink may not be so simple, at least when you try to order it in any but the old-fashioned form.
The better part of a decade ago, my wife was able to get the Bourbon Cocktail (‘soft’ and ‘up’) at a well-known, whiskey-focused bar in downtown Los Angeles. She likes whiskey and has always loved that classic drink. A couple of years and staff incarnations later, she was there again. It was a little past seven o’clock and she thought it would be grand to have a Bourbon Cocktail. The bartenders at that supposedly old-tradition bar had no idea what she was talking about. She was passed between bartenders and finally to the manager. When she explained it to them slowly, and with greater politeness than I would have been able to muster, they thought that she was telling them to stir and strain ‘the Old-fashion’ (as if that were a specific drink, rather than the old way to make a cocktail out of any liquor). They let her know that they (mis)took her to be asking them to violate something classic and hallowed, and they refused. Such ignorance from those who wrap themselves in the pretense of American mixological tradition can be breath-taking.
Here are some recipes from 1895 that illustrate the point. They are for the various forms of the Brandy Cocktail, but the source gives all three, likewise, for the Whiskey Cocktails.
So, you’ve just got to do it for yourself, it seems. If I want to sip it a while, I have it the old-fashioned way. If I am going to drink it in the traditional three-or-four gulps, I have it ‘soft’ and ‘up.’ Drinks of this type used to be called ‘soft’ because they were already fully-diluted when served — in a goblet (‘up’) without ice. If it is cold outside, I have it hot. All are very pleasing in their way at various moments. That said, I almost never have it ‘soft’ and ‘on-the-rocks.’ Here are the recipes.