Mixology Monday: Brown Bitter and Stirred—Rum Old ...

Mixology Monday: Brown Bitter and Stirred—Rum Old Fashioned

Brown, Bitter, and Stirred. That is this month’s invocation for Mixology Monday, hosted this round by Lindsey Johnson of Lush Life Productions at her blog, er, Brown Bitter and Stirred. At first glance, it is almost too easy. The phrase itself is practically a recipe for the first cocktail, and three mighty elders of classic cocktaildom leap immediately to mind: The Sazerac, the Old-Fashioned, and the mighty Gospel of Whiskey, the Manhattan. But the challenge with Mixology Monday for me is to offer something that may be a twist for at least some readers who stumble into this blog binge.
I’m going to discuss an Old Fashioned. Specifically, I’m going to offer up the much lesser known Rum Old Fashioned. Like Sours and Rickeys, Old Fashioneds are actually a class of cocktail. While a single spirit is best known as the base, a mixer can open up new worlds just by substituting another. The method of preparation is the same.
I’ll start right off with my recipe for an Old Fashioned. It is not the recipe for an Old Fashioned, which is too damn time-consuming to use for everyday work. Nor is it (thankfully) any of the other recipes for an Old Fashioned.
For the nonce, I’ll just say spirit. You can use most base liquors here, but it works best with certain brown ones like Bourbon, Rye, and Aged Rum.


  • 2 1/2 oz. Spirit
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir long and gently. Add ice to drinking glass and strain cocktail over. Garnish with a large strip of orange peel.

I use simple syrup instead of the sugar cube in the recipe because I have things to do. I don’t use wads of citrus or cherries because this ain’t no fern bar beverage.

I recently made some disparaging remarks about ice geekery, but the quality and nature of the ice you use in an Old Fashioned has a greater effect on the experience of drinking it than with most any other cocktail I regularly drink. Old Fashioneds are sipping drinks, meant to be savored slowly, while thinking deep thoughts on matters of importance. Yet, they taste best cold. That’s why you serve them on the rocks, rather than up. But they also suffer greatly with dilution. The Old Fashioned is a potent potion, and if you let it get all watery, you go from Don Draper to Dwight Schrute.
This is why I stir the drink first, then strain. This gets the drink good and cold to start. Then I use the largest ice I have available in the drink when I serve it. The large ice will keep things cold, but does not melt with anything like the speed of smaller pieces and their vastly increased surface area. Clover Club takes this to an art form, but I’m pretty happy with what I do.

That’s a cocktail glass!

Yes. Yes it is. Your point?

Well, there is a different kind of glass that people usually use. It’s got a funny name… Whatchacallit… Oh yeah, an Old Fashioned Glass!
What is wrong with you?

More things than I’ve got space for here….
I just think that the ice ball looks better in a cocktail glass than the traditional low ball. And I’m an iconoclast.

Lastly, let’s talk about the spirit that makes this drink different from the regular Old Fashioneds that I more often make. Old Fashioneds are obviously going to be very sensitive to the quality of the liquor you use, since that liquor is almost the entire drink. Less expensive rums that may be just fine in more complex cocktails will be a waste of time, money, and liver in a Rum Old Fashioned. And many top shelf rums have the wrong profile to be really happy in the drink either. I prefer a rich, mellow rum on the sweeter side in an Old Fashioned.
I’ll make a suggestion here of Zaya Gran Reserva rum. I do so for two reasons: The Liquor Fairy sent me a bottle recently, so I’ve been experimenting with it; And since I first tried it in a Rum Old Fashioned, I’ve been hoarding the remaining amount solely for this use. (As is so often the case with really good stuff, it isn’t available locally in Ohio. Sigh.)
Zaya is a blackstrap rum from Trinidad. It is a luscious dark color, with a viscous consistency, and redolent aromas. It is a lot of fun in Tiki drinks, but it is so rich on its own that I think it best reserved for drinks like this one instead. The makers are positioning it as a sipper as well. RumDood points out that the connoisseurs may be split on how this rum ranks. I think that that is a good sign of interesting character in a product. I also like to see this since it means the stuff isn’t likely to cost twice as much next year….

Regardless of the rum you use, the Rum Old Fashioned is a markedly different drink from the more common whiskey variety. It is a happier and less introspective drink in general, though it will still do the job when deep thoughts must be thunk. Now, go back to Lindsey’s place for more Brown, Bitter and Stirred! Thanks for dropping by, and don’t be a stranger.


  1. TipsyTexan

    30 August

    Damn! That’s a good-looking cocktail.
    Alt-Fashioneds (aged rum, tequila, etc) have been popping up on cocktail menus lately around these parts, and I’m happy to see that. I haven’t tried one with Zaya yet but may have to do that. For lunch, perhaps.

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  2. Mr. Martini

    30 August

    Great write up. I’ve been enjoying a rum old fashioned every evening for the last couple weeks. I don’t know why but lately it has been my evening beverage of choice. I wanted to share what I’ve been mixing. I recently purchased some date sugar and maple sugar. I haven’t tried the date sugar yet but I’ve turned the maple sugar into a simple syrup and have absolutely enjoyed 1/4 oz of it with a dash of angostura stirred with ice in 2 oz of Pampero Aniversario rum. Delish!

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  3. Doug

    30 August

    I had not really thought about this. I have a variety of different simple syrups that are pretty tasty. It sounds like a great way to tweak an Old Fashioned of any stripe.

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