How to Make an Old Fashioned

Who says to have to venture out to a bar to get an old fashioned? This old fashioned cocktail 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 cocktail recipe, plus how to customize it.

What’s an Old Fashioned?

In its most basic form, an old fashioned is a combination of sugar, bitters, whiskey and a bit of water in a specialty 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 from a traditional American whiskey to rye, bourbon or brandy. Some even swear by rum or mezcal! Sticking with whiskey? Read up on the best whiskey drinks.

Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail 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 of 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 standard old fashioned glass, add your sugar cube, 1 or 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (or a similar style of 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.

Test Kitchen tip: 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: Ice

Once the sugar has dissolved, add a couple of ice 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.

Test Kitchen 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 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.

How to Customize an Old Fashioned

Brandy Old FashionedTaste of Home

Like we touched on earlier there are a ton of ways to adjust an old fashioned to your tastes. Mix and match the variations below to drink the drink that’s best for you.

  • Whiskey: 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.
  • Type of Spirit: Buck tradition and skip the whiskey altogether. The most popular substitution is brandy, but you can go with pretty much any liquor, though you may need to adjust the type bitters to complement the spirit.
  • Bitters: Speaking of bitters, you don’t have to use Angostura. The brand is the go-to choice for many when it comes to an old fashioned, there are many others out there. We love Bittercube’s range of bitters, which includes an irresistible cherry vanilla bark flavor. You can also learn how to make your own bitters.
  • Sweetener: While sugar cubes add a fun, old-fashion 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 fashioneds, 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, you can substitute the orange peel garnish for a lemon peel.
  • Cherries: Another popular addition to an old fashioned is cherries. Cherry can be muddled along with the sugar, bitters and an orange slice or just used as a garnish. However you use them, Luxardo maraschino cherries are a must.
  • Add a Wash: Topping your cocktail with a bit of water, seltzer water or soda. There are three main types of wash for an old fashioned:
    • 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 seltzer water.

Next, try one of these supper club-worthy cocktail recipes.

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Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.