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), 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.
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.
If you do decide to use a sugar cube, a small splash of club soda or water should be used to help muddle/dissolve the sugar.
Best Bourbon for 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
Addressing Proper Technique
Today, most Old Fashioneds are made improperly with muddled oranges and cherries (I cringe at the sight of these), while others add lots of club soda on top (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.
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.
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.
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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 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.
- 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