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A Classic Old Fashioned is a delightful, straightforward cocktail that allows the flavor of the bourbon or rye whiskey to shine, enhanced by the bitters and a hint of sweetness.
It’s a drink that’s all about savoring the character of the spirits and enjoying a taste of the past!
Old Fashioned Ingredients
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- 1 sugar cube (or 0.5 teaspoon of sugar) – I use demerara sugar cubes
- 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
- A splash of water (0.5 to 1 teaspoon)
- 2 oz (60 ml) of bourbon or rye whiskey – My preference is Four Roses Bourbon Whiskey, but feel free to stick with your favorite.
- Ice – Cubed ice is used to chill the drink, and a large ice ball is preferred for serving because it does not melt as quickly.
- Orange twist or lemon peel (for garnish)
- Maraschino cherry (optional, for garnish)
Check out the printable recipe card below for the complete recipe and detailed instructions.
Tools used to create this cocktail
- Old Fashion Cocktail Glasses – also known as a rocks glass
- Mixing Glass
- Cocktail Muddler & Bar Spoon
- Silicone Ice Balls Mold
What are bitters?
Bitters are a concentrated, strongly flavored alcoholic liquid infused with various botanical ingredients, including herbs, spices, roots, and barks. They are typically used in cocktails to add complexity, depth, and a subtle bitterness to the drink.
Bitters are considered an essential ingredient in many classic and contemporary cocktail recipes.
How to make a Traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail
Place the sugar cube (or sugar) in a mixing glass. Add 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters to the glass.
Add a few drops of plain water to the glass and stir until the sugar dissolves. This helps mellow the drink and create a syrupy consistency.
Fill the mixing glass with ice, add the bourbon or whiskey, and stir until well-chilled.
Place a single, large ice cube into an Old Fashioned glass, and strain cocktail over the ice cube.
Garnish your Old Fashioned with a twist of orange or lemon peel. To do this, hold the peel over the glass, skin side facing the drink, and give it a good twist to release the citrus oils, then rub it around the rim of the glass before dropping it in.
Add a maraschino cherry for added color if desired.
The name “Old Fashioned” comes from its simple preparation, which dates back to the early 19th century. It’s considered one of the oldest known cocktails, and it is commonly served before dinner.
Bourbon and rye whiskey are the most commonly used spirits for an Old Fashioned. The choice between the two depends on your personal preference, as bourbon tends to be sweeter and smoother, while rye has a spicier and drier character.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon – Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise.
Four Roses Single Barrel – Complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate long finish that’s unbelievably mellow. ($54)
Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon – Higher proof bourbon that’s extraordinarily smooth with even more rich wood and vanilla notes. Deep amber in color with robust vanilla and caramel aromas accented by slight smoke. ($66)
Maker’s Mark 46 French Oaked Bourbon – Smooth and approachable with an easy finish. ($26)
Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon – A smooth, balanced body infused with vanilla, caramel, honey apple and spices at the forefront lead to a creamy midpalate and end with a lingering honey oak finish. ($55)
Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey – Distilled in one season, at one distillery, and bottled at 100 proof. It is aged for four years in new char American oak. ($26)
Basil Hayden Dark Rye – Rich with oak, spice and dried fruit notes adding unique depth and a viscous mouthfeel. It is then finished with a touch of CA port for juicy ripe fruit notes. ($55)
Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey – Patiently aged for 7Yr in deeply charred barrels and bottled at 100 proof to give it the signature Knob Creek full flavor. At 7Yrs, Knob Creek Rye achieves its optimal flavor profile resulting in the perfect balance between sweet and spicy. ($62)
Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey – Mild tobacco and some cherry notes hit first. Mid-palate the rye becomes buttery smooth and well rounded between the sweet and spicy characteristics. ($27)
Yes, you can substitute a sugar cube with simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, dissolved) white sugar, or maple syrup if you prefer. The sugar cube is used in the traditional recipe to help control the sweetness.
To muddle a sugar cube, place it in the glass, add the bitters and a few drops of water, and use a muddler or the back of a spoon to crush and dissolve the sugar.
There are many variations, such as the “Smoked Old Fashioned,” which is infused with smoky flavors, or the “New York Sour,” which adds a layer of red wine on top. The “Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned” substitutes Korbel brandy for the whiskey and a splash of lemon-lime soda (sweet), a splash of sour mix or Squirt soda (sour), or half lemon-lime soda and half soda water (press) depending on your tastes.
Traditionally, a single large ice cube is used to chill the drink without diluting it too quickly. However, you can use regular ice cubes if you don’t have large ones, and some people even prefer the dilution from regular ice cubes.
It’s a good idea to pair your cocktail with appetizers that complement the drink’s rich and flavorful profile. Here are some appetizer ideas that go well with Old Fashioned cocktails:
- Charcuterie Board – A well-curated selection of cheeses, cured meats, and accompaniments like olives, nuts, and honey pairs beautifully with the depth of this cocktail.
- Deviled Eggs – The creamy and slightly tangy nature of deviled eggs balances the strong flavors of the cocktail, making for a tasty combination.
- Sweet and Spicy Almonds – A bowl of roasted and spiced nuts, such as almonds or cashews, provides a crunchy and flavorful snack that pairs nicely with the whiskey in this drink.
Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail
- 1 demerara sugar cube or 0.5-teaspoon sugar
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 splash ice water 0.5 to 1-teaspoon
- 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey 60ml
- ice cubes to chill the cocktail
- 1 large 2.5-inch ice ball
- 1 orange twist or lemon – to garnish
- 1 Maraschino cherry optional
- Place the sugar cube (or sugar) in a mixing glass. Add 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters to the glass.
- Add a few drops of plain water to the glass and stir until the sugar dissolves. This helps mellow the drink and create a syrupy consistency.
- Fill the mixing glass with ice, add the bourbon or whiskey, and stir until well-chilled.
- Place a single, large ice cube into an Old Fashioned glass, and strain cocktail over the ice cube.
- Garnish your old fashioned cocktails with a twist of orange or lemon peel. To do this, hold the peel over the glass, skin side facing the drink, and give it a good twist to release the citrus oils, then rub it around the rim of the glass before dropping it in.
- Add a maraschino cherry for added color if desired.