Here’s how to make the oldest cocktail there is! This Old Fashioned recipe uses the classic ingredients and method for truly timeless drink.
The Old Fashioned is barely a cocktail at all: just lightly sweetened booze seasoned with bitters. But it’s become one of the most famous cocktails there is! This recipe dates back to the early 1800’s, before the words classic and cocktail were even said next to each other. Everyone has their own spin on an Old Fashioned drink recipe: but we think this one’s pretty darn perfect. Here are a few tricks to making the best pristine version of this cocktail that lets the whiskey shine.
Old Fashioned ingredients
The Old Fashioned gets its name because it started as literally the cocktail. That’s right: the first cocktail in existence! The definition of the word cocktail was first documented in 1806 in a New York paper The Balance and Columbian Repository, calling it a “concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar,” essentially a recipe for an Old Fashioned. Once more cocktails started coming along in the 1880’s, they needed a name for that original whiskey cocktail. The “Old Fashioned” was born.
The Old Fashioned is a classic alcoholic drink on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition of the drink, which is:
- Bourbon or rye whiskey
- Sugar cube
- Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
How to make an Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned recipe is perhaps one of the easiest great cocktails there is! It’s almost 100% whiskey, so you’ve got to love the stuff to drink this one. (If you’re not a whiskey fan, try a whiskey sour as a better introduction to the stuff.) The classic method for how to make an Old Fashioned is:
- Shake 4 dashes bitters on 1 sugar cube, then muddle it with ½ teaspoon water. This is the traditional method, though many recipes these days call for simple syrup since it dissolves better. We like the nuanced sweetness of the sugar cube best: it really lets the whiskey shine. Don’t worry if it doesn’t dissolve all the way.
- Add 2 ounces whiskey. Bourbon is sweet with hints of vanilla and oak, or use rye whiskey which has a spicier finish.
- Add ice, orange peel, and optional cherry. Add a large ice cube and an orange peel, making sure to squeeze it over the drink to release the oils. If desired, add a cocktail cherry. A bit more about that ice…
Use clear ice!
How to make a next level Old Fashioned recipe? Make a batch of clear ice. See that sparkling ice cube above? Clear ice is perfectly clear artisan style ice like you’d see in a fancy bar, instead of cloudy cubes from an ice tray. Making this not only looks beautiful, it allows you to cut a large square to fill the glass. There are two methods for how to make clear ice:
- Make it with a small cooler. You can make a batch that will last for many drinks and store it in the freezer, then cut it into large cubes or organic shapes for all your drinks. All you need is 24 hours and a small cooler! To do it, go to How to Make Clear Ice.
- Use a clear ice maker. With the popularity of home bartending, there are now some great options for clear ice makers. We like this one: ClearlyFrozen Home Clear Ice Maker
Garnishing this Old Fashioned recipe
Both the orange peel and cocktail cherry are listed as the garnish in the official IBA definition of an Old Fashioned, though for flavor only the orange peel is required. Here are a few notes on the garnish:
- Orange peel: Squeeze it over the drink first, which releases the oils and gives it a strong orange perfume. To amp it up a notch, run the orange peel around the rim of the glass. This gives an even more citrus-y first sip.
- Cocktail cherry: The cherry adds a nuanced sweetness to this cocktail. Determine if you’d like your Old Fashioned on the sweeter side.
- Lemon peel: A lemon peel can also be an optional garnish for an Old Fashioned, along with the orange peel.
Increase the bitters if you’d like
When you soak the sugar cube with Angostura bitters, use 4 good dashes of the bitters: not just drops! It’s essential to the nuanced flavor of the Old Fashioned. If you love the flavor of bitters (which we do!), you can add a bit more.
A muddler to use (and what you can substitute)
If you’re into cocktails, you’ll want to get yourself a muddler! A muddler is a tool used to mash (or “muddle”) herbs and fruits to use them in drinks. In an Old Fashioned, you need to muddle the sugar cube so that it dissolves. Here’s the Cocktail Muddler we use! An unfinished wooden muddler is recommended so that no artificial flavors flake off into your drink.
Don’t have a cocktail muddler? No problem. Use a wooden spoon instead!
Variations on the Old Fashioned
And that’s it: how to make a perfect Old Fashioned recipe! Once you’ve made it a few times, you may want to mix it up a bit. Here are Old Fashioned variations we love:
- Try the Wisconsin Old Fashioned, an Old Fashioned made with brandy!
- Opt for the smoky and delicious Oaxaca Old Fashioned with tequila and mezcal
- Go unique with a smoke-infused Smoked Old Fashioned (requires some special equipment!)
- Try a Maple Old Fashioned using maple syrup instead of sugar
- Go for specialty liqueurs with a Jagermeister Old Fashioned, Fireball Old Fashioned or Skrewball Old Fashioned
When to serve this Old Fashioned drink recipe
The Old Fashioned cocktail is classic and whiskey forward; it’s perfect for sipping as a:
- Happy hour drink
- Dinner party drink
- Late night drinks drink
- Guys night drink
- Cocktail hour drink
Here’s the oldest cocktail there is, the Old Fashioned! The classic method uses a sugar cube, bitters, and bourbon whiskey for a truly timeless drink.
- 1 sugar cube (1 teaspoon sugar)
- 4 dashes Angostura bitters
- ½ teaspoon water
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon or rye whiskey
- Orange peel
- Cocktail cherry, for garnish (optional)
- Large clear ice cube, for serving
- Place the sugar cube in a lowball glass and add the bitters. Add the water and mash and swirl it with a muddler or wooden spoon until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
- Add the whiskey and swirl to combine. Add a large ice cube.
- Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of the orange peel. Squeeze the orange peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass. If desired, garnish with a cocktail cherry for additional sweetness.
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Cocktails
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: Old Fashioned, Bourbon Old Fashioned
More whiskey cocktails
- Favorite Whiskey Sour Perfectly balanced and so easy to make! Or add a foam topping to make it a Boston Sour.
- Whiskey Smash A tangy and refreshing whiskey drink with lemon juice and mint — like a citrus spin on the Mint Julep.
- Boulevardier Cocktail A stunning classic cocktail! This easy three ingredient drink an the improvement on the Negroni, swapping gin for warm whiskey.
- Sazerac The official cocktail of New Orleans! Cognac, whiskey and absinthe make up this famous drink. Or try La Louisiane, an even better spin on this classic.
- Toronto Cocktail Combines the depth and warmth of whiskey with the intrigue of herbal Fernet-Branca liqueur.
- Manhattan Cocktail Add style to your evening with this easy classic whiskey cocktail made with just three ingredients.
- Alabama Slammer A retro highball cocktail full of fruity flavor.
- Penicillin This tasty modern classic stars Scotch, honey, lemon and ginger.
- Vieux Carre Strong and sippable, it features whiskey, Cognac and vermouth.