Midwest: NYT Insults the Old Fashioned

I read the New York Times every morning the same way I used to dutifully say five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys after going to confession. Penance cleanses the soul. Reading the Times isn’t quite wearing a hair shirt, but most days it feels close.

What the Times lacks is any understanding of anybody west of the Hudson, that is until you get to Sacramento. And there is no stronger proof of that (note pun here since I’m writing about a cocktail) than the Times’ version of an Old Fashioned. Here’s their description:

The old-fashioned is one of the oldest mixed drinks in the cocktail canon. (Original name: whiskey cocktail, which became old-fashioned whiskey cocktail, and then just old-fashioned.) It is a stirred drink, usually built in the glass in which it is served. Both rye and bourbon are suitable base spirits. For the sweetener, purists muddle up a sugar cube with water and a couple dashes of bitters, but simple syrup works as well. Twists can be orange, lemon or both (known as “rabbit ears”). A fruited version of the drink came into vogue after Prohibition and involves the muddling of a cherry and orange slice along with the sugar. That version remains widespread, but we advocate the more elemental rendition that took hold in the late 1800s, one that allows the flavors of the whiskey to shine.

I added the emphasis and any Wisconsinite now gets my point. According to the self-appointed national paper of record, you can only use rye or bourbon in an Old Fashioned. Well, we use brandy here in fly over country and we consume more Old Faashioneds than any place on earth, and I’m not just talking per capita. The Times’ formula is like an apple pie recipe that calls for cherries and peaches, but omits, you know, apples.

Oh, and the Times’ prefers “the more elemental rendition” (nothing pretentious about that language) which excludes the orange slices and cherries as if the nutritional value of this cocktail is no consideration whatsoever.

Seriously folks, if the Times is this clueless about something as “elemental” as the Old Fashioned what should we make of their reporting on Putin?

Charlie Berrens prepares an Old Fashioned with the proper ingredients.

For a correct Old Fashioned recipe I direct you to Charlie Berrens here. “If somebody asks for whiskey in his Old Fashioned tell him to go back to Illinois,” Berrens correctly points out. Or New York, I guess.

Welcome to Midwest, an occasional Sunday morning feature here at YSDA, where we explore what’s good about the center. Want to read more about why it’s best to be in the middle? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “Midwest: NYT Insults the Old Fashioned

  1. The “traditional” (aka East Coast) Old Fashioned was the first drink I learned to mix as a pre-teen helper at my parents’ parties in the 1950s -1960s, and that crowd was Team Bourbon. I was introduced to the Wisconsin Old Fashioned in the mid-1970s when I came here for graduate school. They are two different drinks, both valid. I remember that when canned cocktails attempted to hit the market in the 1990s there was a company that made both versions. Only one Margarita, only one Moscow Mule, only one version of each of their other offerings, but two versions of the Old Fashioned. Because they thought that there was a market for both.


  2. I tended bar at the Avenue in the early ’90s where I prepared hundreds of Old Fashions, all of which were brandy-based. For an extra quarter, the customer could get Korbel.
    You are correct in noting that the Times’ credibility becomes suspect when they muff something as basic as a cocktail recipe.


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