Old Fashioned


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Written By cocktailflavors.com
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Welcome to the timeless world of the Old Fashioned, a cocktail that has stood the test of time with its elegant simplicity and deep flavors. This drink is a testament to the adage that less is more, combining whiskey, sugar, bitters, and citrus into a symphony of taste. It’s a drink that whispers of history with each sip.

The Old Fashioned is not just a cocktail; it’s an experience that transports you to a bygone era of speakeasies and jazz. Its primary flavors of caramel, vanilla, and citrus blend seamlessly with the spicy kick of bitters. Perfect for a quiet evening or as a sophisticated choice at social gatherings, the Old Fashioned never goes out of style.

Join us as we delve into the rich tapestry of this beloved cocktail. Whether you’re a seasoned connoisseur or a curious newcomer, there’s something in the Old Fashioned for everyone. Let’s raise a glass to tradition and taste.

Key Facts About the Old Fashioned

  • Alcohol Volume: Approximately 14g alcohol per serving
  • Calories: Roughly 154 kcal per cocktail
  • Glass Type: Traditionally served in a Rocks glass
  • Typical Garnish: An orange twist to accentuate the citrus notes

Interesting Facts about the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is often considered the original cocktail, setting the standard for mixology. It’s a drink that has been favored by presidents and literary giants alike. The cocktail’s name itself suggests a nod to the old way of crafting drinks, focusing on the fundamental elements that make a spirit shine.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Preparation

Tasting Notes

The Old Fashioned is a harmonious blend of sweet and bitter, with the warmth of whiskey at its core. Its flavor profile is robust yet smooth, making it a favorite among those who appreciate a well-rounded drink. The cocktail’s versatility makes it suitable for a cozy night in or as a dignified choice for celebratory occasions.

Connoisseurs of the Old Fashioned often note the subtle interplay between the sweetness of the sugar or syrup and the complex botanicals of the bitters. The choice of whiskey can also influence the taste, with bourbon imparting a sweeter profile and rye adding a peppery twist. It’s a cocktail that invites contemplation and savoring.

History of the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned has a storied past, tracing its roots back to the early 19th century. It was first referred to as a cocktail in the 1806 edition of “The Balance and Columbian Repository,” where it was described as a potent concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. This simple mixture laid the groundwork for what would become the Old Fashioned.

As cocktails became more elaborate, there was a return to the basics in the late 19th century, with drinkers calling for a cocktail made the “old-fashioned” way. The Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, is often credited with popularizing the drink, and it was there that the Old Fashioned was said to have been invented.

The drink’s popularity soared during Prohibition, as the sugar and bitters helped mask the taste of poor-quality spirits. Over the years, the Old Fashioned has seen various adaptations, but its essence remains unchanged. It’s a cocktail that has endured the ebbs and flows of trends, remaining a steadfast favorite.

Old Fashioned Ingredients

  • Bourbon or Rye Whiskey (2 oz): The backbone of the cocktail, providing rich, woody flavors.
  • Sugar Cube (1) or Granulated Sugar (1/2 tsp): Adds sweetness to balance the bitters.
  • Angostura Bitters (2-3 dashes): Offers a complex botanical profile and depth.
  • Plain Water (a few dashes): Helps to dissolve the sugar and integrate the flavors.
  • Ice Cubes: Chills the drink while slightly diluting the whiskey for smoothness.
  • Orange Twist: Provides a fragrant citrus note to complement the whiskey.

Did you know?

The Old Fashioned was reportedly a favorite of President Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess, highlighting its appeal across a wide spectrum of society.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Glass

Old Fashioned Method

Preparing the Sugar Base

Start by placing the sugar cube in a Rocks glass. Saturate it with the Angostura bitters and add a dash of water. This step is crucial for creating the cocktail’s signature sweetness and complexity.


Use a muddler to gently crush the sugar and bitters together. The goal is to almost dissolve the sugar, ensuring a smooth texture in the final drink.

Adding Ice and Whiskey

Fill the glass with large ice cubes, which melt slower, keeping the drink cold without over-diluting it. Pour in the whiskey, which should be of high quality to ensure the best flavor.


Stir the mixture for about 30 seconds. This not only chills the drink but also helps to marry the flavors together. A bar spoon is ideal for this task, as it’s designed to mix drinks gently and evenly.


Finish by expressing an orange twist over the drink to release its oils, then drop it into the glass. The garnish adds a final aromatic touch that elevates the entire cocktail.

Serving Suggestion

The Old Fashioned should be served in a Rocks glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass. The wide brim allows for an optimal sensory experience, as the aromas are not confined, enhancing the taste. The sturdy base is perfect for muddling and the glass’s size accommodates the large ice cubes well.

The orange twist garnish is more than just decoration; it’s an essential component of the drink. To prepare it, cut a 2-inch piece of orange peel, avoiding the bitter white pith. Twist it over the glass to spray the oils onto the surface of the drink, then rub the peel around the rim before placing it in the glass.

Elevating the Old Fashioned

  • Quality Ingredients: Opt for premium whiskey and fresh, high-quality bitters to enhance the drink’s flavor profile.
  • Proper Dilution: Use large, clear ice cubes made from distilled water to control dilution and maintain purity of flavor.
  • Experiment with Bitters: While Angostura is traditional, experimenting with other bitters can add unique twists to the classic recipe.

For an extra touch of sophistication, consider using a single large ice sphere or cube. Not only does it look impressive, but it also melts more slowly, keeping your Old Fashioned colder and less diluted for longer.

Another tip is to play with the sugar component. While a sugar cube is traditional, using a high-quality simple syrup can provide a more consistent sweetness and a silkier texture.

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Substitutions and Alternatives for the Old Fashioned

If you’re out of Angostura bitters, consider using orange bitters for a citrus-forward twist. In the absence of bourbon or rye, a high-quality Scotch can offer a smoky alternative. Remember, the essence of the Old Fashioned is its simplicity, so substitutions should maintain the balance of flavors.

For those looking for a similar cocktail experience, the Manhattan and the Whiskey Sour share some characteristics with the Old Fashioned. Both use whiskey as their base and include a sweetening agent, but they offer different taste profiles and complexities.

Add a twist

Infuse your Old Fashioned with new life by adding a splash of club soda for a lighter, effervescent version. Or, for a more herbal note, muddle in a few fresh mint leaves before adding the whiskey. These variations can offer a refreshing take on the classic.

Another idea is to incorporate a small amount of a complementary liqueur, such as cherry or amaretto, to introduce new flavor dimensions. Just be mindful to keep these additions subtle so as not to overpower the core ingredients.

Preferred Liquors for the Old Fashioned

When it comes to choosing a whiskey for your Old Fashioned, brands like Buffalo Trace or Bulleit Bourbon are excellent choices for their smooth and versatile profiles. If you prefer rye, Rittenhouse and Sazerac offer the spiciness that complements the bitters beautifully.

The key is to select a whiskey that you enjoy on its own, as its flavors will be front and center in the cocktail. A well-crafted Old Fashioned should highlight the spirit’s best qualities, not mask them.

Similar Cocktails to the Old Fashioned

If the Old Fashioned has piqued your interest, you might also enjoy exploring other whiskey-based cocktails. The Sazerac shares a similar flavor profile with its use of bitters and a citrus twist. The Boulevardier, on the other hand, introduces Campari into the mix for a bittersweet experience.

For a lighter option, the Mint Julep offers a refreshing minty twist on whiskey. These cocktails all celebrate the versatility of whiskey and are perfect for those who appreciate the Old Fashioned’s classic appeal.

Food Pairings to go with the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned pairs beautifully with rich, savory foods. Try it with a charcuterie board featuring aged cheeses, cured meats, and nuts. The cocktail’s robust flavors stand up well to the boldness of these snacks.

For a sweet contrast, dark chocolate or chocolate-based desserts can complement the Old Fashioned’s caramel notes. The combination of sweet and bitter creates a delightful balance on the palate.

Old Fashioned FAQs

Can I use simple syrup instead of a sugar cube? Yes, simple syrup can provide a smoother sweetness and is easier to integrate into the drink.

Is it necessary to use a specific type of bitters? While Angostura bitters are traditional, feel free to experiment with other types to find your preferred taste.

What’s the best way to garnish an Old Fashioned? An orange twist is classic, but a lemon twist or a cocktail cherry can also be used for a different flavor accent.

Can I make an Old Fashioned with Scotch? Yes, a Scotch Old Fashioned can be a delightful variation, though it will have a different flavor profile than the traditional bourbon or rye version.

How do I choose the right whiskey for an Old Fashioned? Opt for a whiskey that you enjoy neat, as its flavors will be prominent in the cocktail. Both bourbon and rye are excellent choices, depending on your taste preference.

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Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail that dates back to the early 19th century. It's a sophisticated blend of whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus zest. This timeless drink is known for its balance and simplicity, making it a staple in the cocktail world.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Cocktail
Servings 1 drink
Calories 154 kcal


  • Rocks glass
  • Muddler
  • Bar spoon


  • 2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey 60 ml
  • 1 Sugar Cube or 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Few dashes plain water
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange twist for garnish


  • Place the sugar cube in a rocks glass and saturate with bitters, add a dash of plain water.
  • Muddle the sugar, water, and bitters until the sugar is almost dissolved.
  • Fill the glass with large ice cubes, add the whiskey.
  • Stir the cocktail until it is well chilled, about 30 seconds.
  • Garnish with an orange twist.


For a smoother sweetness, simple syrup can be used instead of a sugar cube. The type of whiskey used can alter the flavor profile, with bourbon being sweeter and rye offering a spicier kick.
Keyword bitters, bourbon, Citrus Zest, Classic Cocktail, Ice, Old Fashioned, Rocks Glass, Simple Syrup, Stirred, sugar, Whiskey

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