When I was searching for a different bourbon drink to substitute for a Manhattan due to a temporary drought on vermouth, I decided to try an Old Fashioned, and I made an interesting discovery. Despite its name, which implies it has been around for quite some time, there is no universally agreed upon recipe—nowhere near.
Now granted, every bartender may have a slightly different formula for mixing Manhattans, but the basic ingredients (bourbon, vermouth, and a cherry or twist for garnish) are pretty well established, and I do remember hearing that many martini drinkers believe that the best martinis are made when the bartender merely glances in the direction of the bottle of vermouth, but still, that’s nothing compared to the chaos that I found while searching for an Old Fashioned recipe.
Granted most methods begin with bourbon, rye, or a blended whiskey, but at that point all hell breaks loose. The sweetener could be a simple syrup, or a sugar cube, or just plain sugar, or superfine sugar (which might be optional), and of course, the quantities vary widely.
Angostura bitters may or may not be prescribed.
And the fruit could be anything from cherries, lemons, oranges, limes, or some combination. The fruit might be muddled or simply squeezed to extract the juice, and the garnish may or may not be the same as the fruit ingredient.
And even the prescribed quantity of liquor varies wildly, anywhere from one ounce to (my favorite) found in an old Joy of Cooking edition:
Fill glass to within 1/2 inch of top with Bourbon or rye
Of course, that book hails from the days when the per capita consumption of alcohol was perhaps a bit higher than it is today.
I finally settled on a formula that works for me.
1 teaspoon or so simple syrup
A dash or two of angostura bitters
Freshly squeezed orange juice, about half an ounce
2 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. water
Add ice cubes and stir
Garnish with an orange wedge
Works for me.