What’s Old Is New Again

[Take a moment to imagine me emerging from my steaming laboratory, wild-eyed, Doc Brown-style.]

I hereby announce this year’s Fall Cocktail: THE AUTUMN OLD-FASHIONED!

Photo from Williams Sonoma.

Y’all, seriously. This tasty bev is the liquid equivalent of carving jack-o-lanterns among bonfires and crunchy leaves.

As you likely are aware, the Old Fashioned is a drink that’s older than our great-great-grandparents (formulated back in 1880!), and the recipe consists of four humble ingredients: bourbon, bitters, sugar, and a twist of orange.

But now, 141 years later, I am modifying a classic. To make the October version of the drink, you’ll need to change two ingredients. Allow me to explain.

The first Top-Secret Spooky Ingredient (TM) that is key to MY recipe is the spicy simple syrup, and it must be handmade, by YOU, according to the directions below, which you must follow to the letter if you want to achieve the full wonderment of this incredible, imbibable treat.

For each drink, carefully spoon 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of ground clove with 1 teaspoon of WARM TO HOT water in an empty tumbler. Then stir until the sugar is nearly dissolved (this takes 33 stirs with a metal spoon, or 17 presses with a pestle … not that I counted).

Now stop and SMELL IT, people. This is the dark and spicy heart of your drink. You WILL experience salivation. You WILL have Mandela-Effect-like flashbacks to that night in a dim Sleepy Hollow lodge with Ichabod Crane. You WILL want to grab a broomstick and ride it into the darkness.

The second Top-Secret Spooky Ingredient that distinguishes this drink from those run-of-the-mill regular Old Fashioneds is FIRE.

You read that right. You want to take a piece of orange zest and burn it in actual fire like the October witch that you are. This embellishment is particularly dazzling if you’re making the Autumn Old-Fashioned in front of others you wish to impress (e.g., at a gathering).

Use a potato peeler to strip off a curl of orange peel. Hold a flame beneath it (using a wooden match is best, but a lighter will work) until it’s charred, and then wring that smoky goodness into your glass. This imbues your drink with burnt orange oils. Rub that rind all along the circumference of your glass and then drop it in.

Add to this concoction your bourbon and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir or pestle for ten more seconds, and then add ice cubes. Viola.

Photo from Williams Sonoma.


  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces bourbon (Basil Hayden’s is the smoothest!)
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground clove


  • Make the autumnal simple syrup as described above.
  • Burn and express the orange peel as described above.
  • Add bourbon.
  • Add ice.
  • Drink UP!

Created and tested repeatedly (oh, the things I do for this blog) in the kitchen of Skeleton Key Headquarters.

3 responses to “What’s Old Is New Again”

  1. Quite the trooper, taking one for the team in the “test kitchen”.
    I have all at hand. (a low budget bourbon though) And it is Saturday. I’m in.
    Thanks for keeping the Key alive for another year, do enjoy the Eve.

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