The Old Fashioned cocktail dates back to the late 1800’s. It’s said to have been created by bartender, James E. Pepper in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a classic cocktail made with whiskey (bourbon), Angostura bitters, orange (or lemon) peel, and a muddled sugar cube. Unfortunately, this isn’t what you’ll get at 90% of restaurants and bars if you order one.
Today, most Old Fashioneds are made with muddled oranges and cherries (I cringe at the sight of these), while others add club soda (please, don’t do this). Truth be told until I had a proper Old Fashioned, I thought this was actually the drink as it was intended to be.
But that’s the problem, a lot of restaurants and bars still haven’t caught on to proper mixology techniques. Taste a real Old Fashioned, and you’ll instantly know and love the difference. That’s what truly makes this the best old fashioned recipe.
The Manhattan vs. Old Fashioned
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve ordered a Manhattan and received an Old Fashioned, and vice versa. Long and the short of it, the Manhattan is made with whiskey and vermouth, the Old Fashioned is made with whiskey, sugar, and orange peel.
What’s in an Old Fashioned?
Old Fashioned ingredients call for Bourbon, sugar, bitters, orange peel. 4 simple elements plus ice. No orange pulp, no mashed cherries, not overly sweet, not watered down. I usually substitute simple syrup in place of a sugar cube since I always have it on hand and it obviously mixes better than sugar.
How to Make an Old Fashioned
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice and stir (never shake). Strain into a double Old Fashioned glass and squeeze/twist the orange peel over the cocktail to release the oil and flavors from the peel. It’s subtle but makes a massive difference in the final taste and aroma. Is it the same drink without it? No way.
Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned
I love bourbon because there so SO MANY great bourbons out there at the $20-$30 price point. I really like:
- Buffalo Trace
- Elijah Craig
- Woodford Reserve
- Eagle Rare
- Knob Creek
The Peel is a Flavor Element, Not Just a Garnish
A tip on expressing the oils from a peel: You want to point the outer peel (non pith side) outward facing the drink and gently squeeze the edges so the oils spray out over the top of the drink. If done properly, you can actually see an oily film floating on the surface of your cocktail. The aroma should hit your note as you sip.
Lastly, serve with a (giant) ice cube if you have on hand (they melt slower) and garnish with the orange peel. If you love Old Fashioned cocktails, invest in a giant silicone ice cube tray—you won’t regret it.Print
How to make the classic old fashioned drink the right way. Bourbon, bitters, simple syrup (sugar cube), and an orange peel.
- 2 ounces bourbon or rye
- 1/4 ounce (1 teaspoon) simple syrup or 1 sugar cube with a splash of water (muddled)
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 orange peel (or lemon)
- In a mixing glass or Boston shaker, combine simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Fill mixing glass halfway with ice, then stir vigorously about a dozen times.
- Strain into an old-fashioned glass over a giant ice cube.
- Squeeze orange peel over glass to extract oils, wipe the rim of the glass with the peel and add to the glass.
You can use 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar if you don’t have simple syrup.
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