You can’t get a more classic drink than an Old Fashioned. Made with a cube of sugar, drenched in cocktail bitters, a double shot of Whiskey, and garnished with an orange peel. The classic Old Fashion cocktail recipe is simple and goes a long way back to the 19th century. It’s the kind of drink that can highlight your spirit while barely twisting its taste.
Besides the Whiskey Sour, the Whiskey Old Fashioned probably is the most influential Whiskey cocktail in history. The first time this cocktail got mentioned was as early as 1806. But it took another 80 years until people ordered it under this name frequently. And there are good reasons it’s around for such a long time now.
The Old Fashioned is one of the cornerstone cocktails modern mixology is based on. The sweetness and cocktail bitters make it smoother than many other Whiskey cocktails. Still, the original taste of the whiskey is not hidden but enhanced. And despite it being such a classic, there is a steadily growing number of variations and alternations of the base spirit. Rum, Mezcal, and even Gin are used to re-create this classic.
- 2 oz Whiskey Bourbon or Rye
- 1 pcs Sugar cube
- 3 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 splash Soda water
- Place the sugar cube in an old fashioned glass and wet it with Angostura bitters.
- Add a tiny splash of soda water and crush the cube with a wooden muddler.
- Add a large, clear ice cube and gently pour the whiskey over it.
- Garnish it with an orange peel.
Which Whiskey to use for an Old Fashioned?
That’s quite an interesting question, actually. An Old Fashioned typically contains Bourbon Whiskey, and the majority of recipes out there also stick to Bourbon. But as a matter of fact, it works with almost any whiskey, too. As the cocktail enhances the flavor of the Whiskey, make sure you like its taste. If asked to describe this classic cocktail in one sentence, I would say: an Old Fashioned preserves the typical taste of your Whiskey, but sweetness and a kind of warmth are added, making it even tastier.
Here are some possible versions you can try. Check them out and let me know in the comments which one you prefer. I’m curious.
- Old Fashioned with Scotch: Using a quality Scotch Whiskey is worth a try. However, balancing the aromas of Scotch and Angostura bitters can be tricky. One idea that can make this easier is, choosing a somewhat warm Scotch and combine it with chocolate bitters.
- Old Fashioned with smoky Whiskies: Smoky whiskies have a distinctive flavor and are not for everyone. But while it can be hard to use smoky whisky in some cocktails, it works pretty well in an Old Fashioned. But don’t just go and use the smokiest ones you can find. I wouldn’t choose a Lagavulin 16, for example. You better consider a Bowmore or Talisker. Again, replace Angostura with chocolate bitters for better results.
- Old Fashioned with Rye Whiskey: That’s a highlight! Rye not only pairs exceptionally well with the Bitters, but its spiciness also works as a bridge to the orange flavors. Using a Rye instead of a Bourbon doesn’t alter the intent of the original recipe too much. But it still adds an exciting flavor to this classic.
Alternative spirits to use in Old Fashioned Cocktail
The term Old Fashioned not only describes a cocktail. It also describes how to prepare the drink based on a sugar cube, spirit, and bitters. Therefore, you can use almost any other liquor to create this classic drink. The best matches are barrel-aged spirits, though, like rum or cognac. But Tequila, Gin, or Mezcal are some neat possibilities, too.
Just like with the Negroni, there’s a huge crowd celebrating this classic cocktail. There’s also a special event every year called the Old Fashioned Week. Hundreds of different variations are mixed to celebrate it, and it’s especially popular in bars and on social media.
Soda water in Old Fashioned
The original recipe requires soda water to prepare an Old Fashioned. But with time, more recipes without water came up. Perhaps because of the increased availability of ice cubes, which also work as a kind of dilution. However, I only recommend leaving off the soda when using simple syrup. If you do the traditional recipe based on a sugar cube, I strongly advise you always use a splash of soda. It makes the muddling and mixing way easier.
Orange or lemon peel
While traditional recipes ask for lemon peel, I believe the best fit is an orange peel. Orange flavors work better in combination with the warm notes of the whiskey.
Pro tip when using citrus peel: press it before adding it to your Old Fashioned to release essential oils. That will add a beautiful smell to your cocktail, enhancing the whole experience. You can also swipe the peel around the rim after pressing it together to increase the orange aroma further.
Add a cherry to Old Fashioned?
An Old Fashioned often is served with a cherry on top. However, this is not traditional and also not necessary if you ask me. Especially when I think about those cheap, artificially tasting cherries from the supermarket. But even quality Maraschino Cherries are not essential to complement this classic drink. The simple recipe with added orange peel is enough to make the flavors shine.
How to replace Cocktail bitters
Not at all. Seriously, there’s no way you can replace the cocktail bitters. If you don’t have them, don’t make an Old Fashioned. There are plenty of other recipes for Whiskey cocktails you can try instead. If you want to make an authentic Old Fashioned, order some bitters online or buy them at a local store if they have them in stock.