A properly made Old Fashioned cocktail is difficult to come by these days. Despite being an incredibly simple cocktail, it’s often served as an overly sweet pulp bomb of orange flesh and muddled cherries. Let’s end the debate once and for all and learn how to make the classic Old Fashioned the correct way!
The Old Fashioned cocktail dates back to the late 1800s. It’s said to have been created by bartender, James E. Pepper in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a classic cocktail made with whiskey (bourbon or rye), Angostura bitters, orange peel (or lemon), and a muddled sugar cube. It’s a fantastic whiskey-forward cocktail with subtle sweetness and a bouquet of fresh citrus on the nose.
- Bourbon: I’ve suggested some of my favorite bourbons below. Use whatever you like best. While you can substitute for rye in a pinch, stick with bourbon if possible.
- Sugar: most bars and restaurants substitute simple syrup in place of a sugar cube because it mixes/melts better than table sugar. If you do decide to use a sugar cube, a minuscule splash of club soda or water should be used to help muddle/dissolve the sugar.
- Orange peel: strictly referring to the orange peel. You should not be adding any orange flesh or muddling an orange wheel.
- Bitters: Angostura bitters are readily available and a classic option for almost any whiskey cocktail.
How to Make an Old Fashioned
In a mixing glass or Boston shaker, combine simple syrup, bitters, and bourbon. Fill the mixing glass halfway with ice, then stir vigorously about a dozen times.
Strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass over a giant ice cube or fresh ice.
Squeeze orange peel over the glass to extract oils, wipe the rim of the glass with the peel, and add to the glass.
Tips & Tricks
- 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 see the oils floating on the surface of your drink. This works best with two hands.
- Chill your glasses in the freezer. A cold glass prevents warming and keeps your drink colder for longer.
- Always stir an Old Fashioned. Most whiskey cocktails are stirred rather than shaken to limit the amount of dilution and oxygen infused into the drink.
- A giant ice cube is designed to melt slower due to its size, causing less dilution. If you’re serious about making cocktails, invest in a clear ice maker or make your own clear ice. Clear ice cubes taste better and melt even slower.
Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned
I love bourbon because there are so many great options out there at the $25-$35 price point. My evergrowing list of favorite budget-friendly bourbons are:
- Buffalo Trace
- Elijah Craig
- Henry McKenna Single Barrel
- Four Roses Single Barrel
- Woodford Reserve
- Eagle Rare
- Knob Creek
- Maker’s Mark
Frequently Asked Questions
Simple syrup, also called simple sugar, is a liquid sweetener made with equal parts sugar and water.
Look for Angostura aromatic bitters or Scrappy’s aromatic bitters.
A dash of bitters is a firm downward shake of the bottle so a small amount squirts out. You can alternatively tap the bottom of the bottle with the palm of your hand while holding it upside down, similar to hitting a glass ketchup bottle.
Although often confused, a Manhattan is made with whiskey (bourbon or rye), bitters, and sweet vermouth.
There are countless variations of the Old Fashioned. For a fall-inspired spin sweetened with maple syrup, try the Fall Old Fashioned. For gin lovers, try the gin Old Fashioned made with old Tom gin. For my favorite infused Old Fashioned, try my fig and vanilla infused Old Fashioned.
More Whiskey Cocktails
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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 the mixing glass halfway with ice, then stir vigorously about a dozen times.
- Strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass over a giant ice cube.
- Squeeze orange peel over the 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.
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 see the oils floating on the surface of your drink.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 154
- Sugar: 0g
- Sodium: 6mg
- Fat: 0g
- Saturated Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 6g
- Fiber: 0g
- Protein: 0g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: old fashioned cocktail, how to make an old fashioned, best bourbon for old fashioned