Old Fashioned Cocktail – A Beautiful Mess

Today I’m going to share my favorite classic cocktail- the Bourbon Old Fashioned. The Old Fashioned has been my go-to for years and learning to make a perfect Old Fashioned at home has been such a fun process. You’re going to want to learn this recipe as the Old Fashioned is arguably the most popular bourbon cocktail. It’s sweet, strong and perfectly simple- a true classic!

In this blog post I will teach you the traditional recipe as well as a few time saving tricks and tips to make the perfect Old Fashioned at home.

Related recipes: Old Fashioned Mix, Simple Syrup Recipe, Manhattan Cocktail, Sidecar Cocktail, Hot Toddy.

Old Fashioned Ingredients

  • Bourbon Choose a high quality bourbon or rye whiskey (something you would sip!).
  • Angostura Bitters A classic cocktail bitter (find them on Amazon).
  • Sugar You will need granulated sugar to make the classic recipe. You can also save a bit of time by using simple syrup in place of sugar and water if you choose.
  • Water You will need a splash of water.
  • Orange Twist Garnish
  • Cherries Although not a part of the traditional recipe, many people prefer two cherries with their Old Fashioned cocktail. This is optional.

History of an Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned cocktail is one of the first officially recorded cocktails with more 200 years of history and counting. It was invented before bartenders began to add fancy embellishments to their cocktails and got its name from those who preferred to keep their cocktail simple and, well, old fashioned.

A classic never goes out of style and more recently new generations of wannabes (like me!) have learned about this cocktail from television shows like Mad Men ensuring its legacy will live on.

How to mix an Old Fashioned

Begin by pouring your sugar into a cocktail mixing glass. Add three dashes of bitters directly to the sugar. Add your water. Mix by hand with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.

Add some ice to the mixing glass and pour your bourbon onto the ice. Continue stirring until the drink is well mixed and chilled.

Strain into a rocks glass over an oversized ice cube.

Express the oil of an orange peel over the top of the glass. You do this by squeezing and folding the skin of an orange peel- you will smell a strong citrus scent as the oils release. Then garnish your drink with the orange peel.

Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

This drink is very spirit forward, so the quality of bourbon you choose will make a big impact on the flavor of your drink. You can spend hours reading opinions on the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned. As a general rule, you should make your Old Fashioned cocktail with a whiskey you would enjoy sipping straight.

I love to collect local bourbons and whiskeys in every variety. You can really have fun creating your own collection. That said, for the purposes of this blog post, I am focusing on brands that are easily available.

Maker’s Mark I chose this because it’s high quality and it’s available at almost every store that sells liquor. The tasting notes are slightly sweet- perfect for this recipe.

Four Roses Single Barrel Another popular option that is easy to find in stores. This is a high proof option with a smooth flavor.

Old Granddad Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Old Grandad is distilled with a high percentage of rye. It’s flavor is slightly spicy with notes of cinnamon and cloves.

Bulleit Bourbon Again I chose this brand because it’s broadly available. The flavor notes are slightly fruity and light.

George Dickle Rye Whiskey I wanted to include a rye whiskey since a Rye Old Fashioned is one of the most popular variations.

Time Saving Tips

The Old Fashioned has a lot of steps for such a simple drink. I recommend learning to make the classic recipe because it’s fun to know how to do things properly and also because it’s a good baseline for making future tweaks. That said, there are lot of ways to speed up the process.

  • The quickest possible way to make a great tasting Old Fashioned at home is to make our Old Fashioned Mix recipe. Once you have made this mix you can create cocktails with zero prep anytime you want.
  • You can save a bit of time by using Simple Syrup instead of sugar and water from the original recipe. This is easier to mix. I also recommend this if you want a sweeter cocktail like many restaurants serve. Simple syrup is the easiest way to add a little more sweetness to your drink.
  • If you are preparing for a dinner party you can batch the entire drink ahead of time and simply pour them into glasses with oversized ice cubes when it’s time to serve. I recommend that if serving a group since the original recipe is a bit more time consuming.

Variations of the Old Fashioned Cocktail

There are many delicious spins on the classic old Fashioned. Here are a few popular variations and what makes the recipes different- often just swapping one ingredient.

  • Rye Old Fashioned Use Rye for a slightly less sweet
  • Brandy Old Fashioned (also called Wisconsin Old Fashioned) This recipe calls for Brandy instead of Bourbon and also is topped with lemon-lime soda, so it is a much sweeter drink than the classic.
  • Pumpkin Spice Old Fashioned If you use our Pumpkin Spice Syrup instead of simple syrup, you can make this festive variation.
  • Irish Old Fashioned Use Jameson Irish Whiskey in place of bourbon
  • Peanut Butter Old Fashioned Use Screwball peanut butter whiskey in place of bourbon for this fun variation.

Should I put cherries in my Old Fashioned?

The classic recipe does not contain cherries, but as someone who has ordered this drink at dozens of restaurants I would say it is served with cherries at least 75% of the time. Bottom line- if it’s good enough for Don Draper, it’s good enough for me.

Personally I love the cherries and welcome them in my drink! If you want to add two cherries to your drink we suggest Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. These dark candied cherries are rich and decadent. Once you open the jar, but sure to store them in your fridge and you can use them in many classic cocktail recipes like the Manhattan.

More Classic Cocktail Recipes:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a classic Old Fashioned made of?

Bourbon, Sugar, Water, Bitters and an orange twist.

What’s the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan

The biggest difference is the type of sweetener used. An Old Fashioned is sweetened with sugar and a Manhattan is sweetened with sweet vermouth.

What type of bitters go in an Old Fashioned

Angostura Bitters. These reddish-brown bitters are strongly fragranced of fruits and spices. This is an essential Old Fashioned ingredient.


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Get the Recipe

Yield 1 person

Prep 5 minutes

Instructions

  • Begin by pouring your sugar into a cocktail mixing glass. Add three dashes of bitters directly to the sugar. Add your water. Mix by hand with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add some ice to the mixing glass and pour your bourbon onto the ice. Continue stirring until the drink is well mixed and chilled.

  • Strain into a rocks glass over an oversized ice cube.
  • Express the oil of an orange peel over the top of the glass. You do this by squeezing and folding the skin of an orange peel- you will smell a strong citrus scent as the oils release. Then garnish your drink with the orange peel.

Notes

  • The quickest possible way to make a great tasting Old Fashioned at home is to make our Old Fashioned Mix recipe. Once you have made this mix you can create cocktails with zero prep anytime you want.
  • You can save a bit of time by using Simple Syrup instead of sugar and water from the original recipe. I also recommend this if you want a sweeter cocktail like many restaurants serve. Simple Syrup is the easiest way to add a little more sweetness to your drink if you want that.
  • If you are preparing for a dinner party you can batch the entire drink ahead of time and simply pour them into glasses with oversized ice cubes when it’s time to serve. I recommend that if serving a group since the original recipe is a bit more time consuming.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Amount per Serving

% Daily Value*

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated, using Spoonacular, for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.

#Fashioned #Cocktail #Beautiful #Mess

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