You won’t mind being old fashioned when it’s served as a Old Fashioned, a classic drink that makes whiskey the star of the show.
Just because it’s called Old Fashioned doesn’t mean that it is old fashioned. This drink is like the perfect purse or those worn-in jeans: it never goes out of fashion. The story goes that the drink got its name in the late 19th century, right as bartenders were starting to flex and use more advanced mixology. Some folks didn’t like the fancy stuff and asked for the traditional “old-fashioned” whiskey cocktail.
The Old Fashioned has fashioned a soft spot in the hearts of Louisvillians: the host city of the Kentucky Derby named the Old Fashioned as its official cocktail. And it was also the go-to cocktail for Don Draper in the TV series Mad Men. Even singer Cole Porter got in on the act with his song, “Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please,” but in the lyrics, he asks for the drink to be made without the orange, cherries, or bitters, essentially rendering the drink to a shot of whiskey.
The Old Fashioned is similar to a classic Manhattan—but with an important difference. The Old Fashioned is sweetened with sugar, while the Manhattan relies on sweet vermouth. If I’m feeling really daring, I’ll confuse my tastebuds by switching between the sweeter Old Fashioned and a Whiskey Sour or even a Whiskey Highball. It’s fun to experiment, but I normally come back to the tried-and-true Old Fashioned.
Why You Will Love This Cocktail Recipe
Made with just four ingredients, the Old Fashioned doesn’t put a strain on your bar ingredients. But the limited number of ingredients gives the spotlight to the main one: whiskey. If you’re a whiskey lover, this is the perfect vehicle to let the alcohol shine.
- A muddler
- A spoon
- A jigger or measuring tool
- A knife and cutting board
- Optional, a cherry pitter
- 2 ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey
- 1 sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
- 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
- orange twist for garnish
- cherry for garnish (optional)
- Put the sugar into an old fashioned glass.
- Splash 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters onto the sugar. Muddle until the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour in your bourbon or rye whiskey.
- Add a one (or a few) clear large ice cube, stirring until the drink is well-chilled. Finally, garnish with an orange twist and, if you like, a cherry.
Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Old Fashioned
- Choose your whiskey wisely. Use a high-quality liquor. Bourbon will have a sweeter flavor while rye can be a bit spicier.
- Muddle the sugar—but not the oranges or cherries. You don’t want the fruit flavors to overwhelm the drink.
- This is a drink that’s meant to be stirred, not shaken.
An old-fashioned glass (also known as a rocks glass) is perfect for the Old Fashioned!
The recipe calls for sugar, but some people prefer to use a simple syrup. You decide.
In a word, yes. Using a giant cube or sphere of ice melts slower so the cocktail doesn’t get watered down. Plus, it’s cool looking.
While Angostura bitters are the traditional choice, you can try orange bitters or even chocolate or coffee bitters.
Old Fashioned Variations Worth Trying
- Wisconsin-Style Brandy Old Fashioned: Replace whiskey with brandy and top with soda.
- Tequila Old Fashioned: Substitute reposado tequila for the whiskey.
- Champagne Old Fashioned: Replace whiskey with Champagne.
- Low Carb Old Fashioned: Use a calorie-free sweetener like stevia or erythritol and a low-carb whiskey.
- Old Fashioned Mocktail: Swap in non-alcoholic bourbon.
How to Store
You can mix the sugar and bitters in advance but wait to finish the drink until just before you serve it. The drink doesn’t work well leftover because of the melting ice. That just means you’ll have to drink up!