How to Make a Classic Old-Fashioned Recipe

Who says you have to venture out to a bar to get an old-fashioned? This old-fashioned recipe will make you a 5-star home bartender in no time.

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As the name ‘old-fashioned’ suggests, this whiskey cocktail is a classic cocktail. And for good reason. Made with just a few ingredients, an old-fashioned is a balanced cocktail from the 1800s that’s as easy to throw together as it is to customize. We’ll show you how to make an old-fashioned recipe, plus how to customize it.

What’s In an Old-Fashioned?

In its most basic form, an old-fashioned recipe contains sugar, bitters, whiskey and a bit of water in a glass with ice. Depending on your tastes or where you’re located, an old-fashioned can also contain orange, lemon, simple syrup, cherries, club soda, Squirt or Sprite. The liquor in an old-fashioned can also vary widely. Here are just some of your options:

Whiskey

The classic spirit, whiskey is a great place to start if you’re trying an old-fashioned for the first time. There are a ton of different types of whiskey and whisky, all of which bring something different to an old-fashioned. Rye, bourbon, Irish whiskey, scotch, Japanese or Canadian whisky and single malt whiskey are just some of your choices. This guide to types of whiskey will help you narrow down which one is best for your tastes. If you’re a die-hard whiskey fan, read up on our best whiskey drinks.

Brandy

A favorite in Wisconsin, brandy is typically a touch sweeter and fruitier than whiskey, since the spirit is made by distilling wine. The mellower brandy old-fashioned is a great alternative for anyone who has found a whiskey old-fashioned a bit harsh. Go full midwestern and mix a classic Wisconsin brandy old-fashioned.

Tequila

If you want to really buck tradition, try a tequila old-fashioned. We recommend using a smoky mezcal or añejo tequila to evoke the savoriness of whiskey and brandy, versus the bright, citrusy flavor of blanco tequila.

Old-Fashioned Recipe

Here, we’ll show you how to make a traditional old-fashioned. Before you get started, make sure you have a high-proof, high-quality whiskey on hand. If you don’t already have a go-to brand, check out the best whiskey picks according to a BarSmart-certified sommelier.

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube (or 1 teaspoon sugar granules)
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1-2 dashes water
  • 1-1/2 ounces whiskey
  • Orange peel, optional

Tools

Directions

Step 1: Muddle

To a single rocks glass, add your sugar cube, 1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters and a bar spoon’s worth of water. Use your muddler to crush the sugar cube until it has completely dissolved in the bitters and water.

Editor’s Note: Bitters are a highly concentrated blend of herbs, spices, roots, bark and fruits that add a bitter, bittersweet or sour flavor to cocktails and other beverages.

Step 2: Add ice and whiskey

Once the sugar has dissolved, add a couple of ice cubes—you can even use smoked iced cubes—to your glass, then pour in the whiskey. Use your bar spoon to stir the drink for about 20 seconds, or until the whiskey has chilled.

Editor’s Tip: To prevent your cocktail from being watered down too much, use the largest ice cubes you can make a home. Ice chips or crushed ice will melt very quickly, so 2-inch ice cubes or ice spheres are preferable.

Step 3: Garnish

If desired, garnish your old-fashioned with an orange peel. Gently twist an orange peel over your cocktail so the oils are sprayed overtop. Then, drop the peel into the glass and enjoy your old-fashioned.

Tips for Making an Old-Fashioned

old fashioned cocktailTMB studio

Can you use other types of bitters in an old-fashioned?

Absolutely! Angostura is the go-to choice for many when it comes to an old-fashioned, but there are other options. We love Bittercube’s range of bitters, which includes an irresistible cherry vanilla bark flavor that’s great in an old-fashioned. Orange bitters are a common substitution that complements the orange peel garnish. You can even learn how to make your own bitters for a truly customized cocktail!

How else can you customize an old-fashioned?

Beyond your choice of alcohol and bitters, there are a ton of ways to adjust an old-fashioned recipe to your tastes. Mix and match the variations below to find the drink that’s best for you.

  • Sweetener: While sugar cubes add a fun, retro feel to an old-fashioned, they might not be the easiest to source, or the best to use. Some bartenders prefer to use simple syrup in their old-fashioned recipe as it doesn’t leave the grainy mouthfeel that undissolved sugar does. You can also use honey or agave nectar for the same effect.
  • Oranges: If you enjoy a lot of orange flavor in an old-fashioned, you can add a slice to the sugar and bitters to be muddled. This will add an intense orange taste to your cocktail—just make sure not to muddle the rind as it can add unwanted bitterness. On the flip side, those who aren’t crazy about oranges can substitute the orange peel garnish for a lemon peel.
  • Cherries: Another popular addition to an old-fashioned is cherries. Cherries can be muddled along with the sugar, bitters and an orange slice or just used as a garnish. If you do include them, Luxardo maraschino cherries are a must.
  • Add a Mixer: Adding a carbonated mixer to an old-fashioned is extremely popular in Wisconsin. There are three common types:
    • Sweet: Topping with a splash of lemon-lime soda, like Sprite or 7UP.
    • Sour: Topping with a splash of grapefruit soda, like Squirt, 50/50 or Fresca.
    • Press: Topping with half a splash of lemon-lime soda and half a splash of club soda.
  • Freeze it: Believe it or not, you can turn this cocktail into a refreshing frozen treat. This Frozen Old-Fashioned recipe is the perfect way to close out a supper club-themed dinner party.

Next, try one of these supper club-worthy vintage cocktails:

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Caroline Stanko
Caroline has been with Taste of Home for the past seven years, working in both print and digital. After starting as an intern for the magazine and special interest publication teams, Caroline was hired as the third-ever digital editor for Taste of Home. Since then, she has researched, written and edited content on just about every topic the site covers, including cooking techniques, buzzy food news, gift guides and many, many recipe collections. Caroline also acts as the editorial lead for video, working with the Test Kitchen, videographers and social media team to produce videos from start to finish. When she’s not tip-tapping on a keyboard, Caroline is probably mixing up a killer cocktail, reading a dog-eared library book or cooking up a multi-course feast (sometimes all at once). Though she technically lives in Milwaukee, there is a 50/50 chance Caroline is in Chicago or southwest Michigan visiting her close-knit family.