Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe
Feb 14, 2019, Updated Nov 08, 2023
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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.
If you love the Old Fashioned cocktail, you should also try the Sazerac cocktail and the very similar Improved Whiskey Cocktail. If you want something a little sweeter and citrusy, look no further than the classic Whiskey Sour or my favorite Sidecar cocktail.
Table of Contents
- 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.
- Simple sugar/demerara syrup: simple syrup is a 50-50 mix of table sugar and hot water. It’s the best way to sweeten cocktails since it easily mixes. You can also use demerara sugar in place of table sugar. This has become the gold standard for whiskey cocktails for its richer, darker flavor.
- 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.
- 20% saline solution: saline is an optional advanced ingredient in cocktails to make the flavors pop. Just like in food, it’s used as a seasoning to enhance different flavors. Mix 80 grams of water with 20 grams of table salt. Stir until salt is dissolved.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.
There are countless variations of the Old Fashioned. For a fall-inspired spin substitute sugar with maple syrup and garnish with a cinnamon stick. 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.
How to Make Simple Syrup
You can purchase simple syrup (simple sugar) premade or you can easily make it right at home. I usually make my simple syrup with a 50-50 mix of sugar and water. Heat 1 cup of water on the stovetop and add one cup of table sugar. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool, place in a sealable jar, and store in the fridge.
You can also make simple syrup in a Pyrex glass in the microwave. Microwave in intervals and stir in between. Simple syrup can be made with table sugar or demerara sugar (raw sugar), which is typically reserved for dark spirits or whiskey cocktails.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
Enjoy this recipe? If you made this cocktail, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe
- 2 ounces bourbon or rye
- 1/4 ounce 1 teaspoon simple syrup or demerara syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 orange peel, or lemon
- optional 2 drops 20% saline solution, see note below
- In a mixing glass or Boston shaker, combine simple syrup, bitters, bourbon, and optional saline. 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.