As far back as I can remember, whenever my family would visit my grandparents during summer vacations, cocktail hour was a given, and the ubiquitous drink in hand was the Old Fashioned (for the adults, of course, not us kids). As you may know, the standard Old Fashioned is a whiskey cocktail made with a splash of bitters, sugar and usually garnished with a orange wedge and maraschino cherry. This is NOT the way my family does an Old Fashioned.
In our family we have what’s affectionately known as “Grampa’s Mix.” This syrupy, aromatically spicy mixer basically makes the Old Fashioned the easiest mixed drink in the world. And for us kids growing up, we were treated to kiddie cocktail of Grampa’s Mix and Sprite (with a cherry or olive for good measure) when the grown-ups had their real drinks.
The reason I bring this up is because I just made a HUGE batch of Grampa’s Mix – because at our wedding, one of our signature drinks will be – you guessed it – our special Old Fashioned.
The ingredients are simple and few: Sugar, Club Soda, and Angostura bitters. That’s it!
And the directions couldn’t be easier. All you do is mix the three ingredients together* and give it a stir every once in a while for about 5 hours. No need to heat AT ALL.
Soon the mixture will be a beautiful spicy syrup that will keep indefinitely. Make sure you keep those Club Soda bottles – you’ll need them to store your newly made mix! (You’ll actually need more containers than the original soda bottles since the sugar and bitters have volume too)
*So here is the actual recipe for Grampa’s Mix
(I made a batch for 400 mixed drinks, so clearly I wouldn’t recommend making as much as I did!)
for Old Fashioneds
2.5 lbs granulated sugar
8 oz Angostura bitters (2 four-ounce bottles)
1.5 liters club soda
Mix all ingredients together. Stir well. Let sit for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally. Do not heat. Store in air-tight bottles.
Papa’s classic Old Fashioned
A glass full of ice
1 shot whiskey
1 shot Grampa’s Mix
fill up the rest of the glass with lemon-lime soda
garnish with green olives, maraschino cherries, or marinated mushrooms