Don’t be deceived into lumping this in with your grandma’s awful carpet or internet explorer.
This isn’t that type of old-fashioned.
This is the Jaguar E-Type, Miles Davis’ A Kind of Blue old-fashioned.
It’s not outdated, it’s a timeless classic. One of the first drinks you’ll expect to see on any cocktail menu.
If you’re serious about bartending and mixology, you need to know how to make an Old Fashioned.
But don’t worry, in this article, I’ll clear up any questions or confusion, and even show you how to make a few variations on the classic drink to spice things up and impress dates and guests alike.
What Is an Old Fashioned? Classic Old Fashioned Ingredients
The Old Fashioned is such a simple mix of whiskey, sugar, and bitters that it’s almost criminal.
And yet, that simple mix has been enjoyed by millions of people for almost 200 years and counting.
Traditionally, the Old Fashioned uses bourbon whiskey to give it that smooth characteristic, although nothing is stopping you from experimenting and finding your personal favorite.
The general rule of thumb to follow is if you wouldn’t drink it neat, don’t put it in an Old Fashioned.
The whiskey you choose will have the biggest effect on the taste of your drink so use that to your advantage.
Experiment with different ages and flavors and regions but don’t cheap out or your Old Fashioned will come out tacky and nasty.
How To Make an Old Fashioned
Now that we know what an Old Fashioned cocktail really is, let’s get into how to make one.
Step One: Muddle the sugar
Add a teaspoon of water, ½ a teaspoon of sugar, and 3 dashes of angostura bitters to the bottom of your rocks glass.
Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
If using a sugar cube to be truly authentic, make sure you muddle it first so you don’t end up with clumps of sugar in your final drink.
If you don’t fancy this, you can always add a teaspoon or so of simple syrup.
It’s not authentic, but time has moved on since the Old Fashioned was first invented and there’s no harm in using modern methods to create a more balanced, consistent drink.
Step Two: Whiskey and Ice
Fill your glass with large ice cubes (larger ones will melt slower and dilute your drink less) and add 2 ounces of bourbon.
Step Three: Finishing Touches
Stir gently with your bar spoon until the drink is nice and evenly mixed. You want a smooth, consistent texture and flavor in your old fashioned so be sure to take time and care in this step.
Finally, garnish with an orange peel and you’re ready to join the long heritage of people who’ve enjoyed an Old Fashioned.
Old Fashioned Recipe Variations
With such a simple recipe, it’s easy to spice up the Old Fashioned, switch a few things around, and create new flavors and palates to enjoy. Here are a few of the most popular:
Cocoa Old Fashioned
A lot of these drinks will start a few days before you actually drink them, and the Cocoa Old Fashioned is no different.
Start by adding cacao nibs and rye whiskey into an infusion jar, and letting it infuse for at least three days. I’ve gone for rye as the spiciness works well with the cacao flavoring.
Once your whiskey has infused, simply strain out the nibs and rebottle, then make your Old Fashioned as normal.
Coffee Old Fashioned
Sticking with cacao-infused whiskey, the Coffee Old Fashioned is a great way to pair the classy, gentleman’s standards of whiskey and coffee.
If you can get a hold of it, add ½ ounce of creme de cacao to your old fashioned, and 1 ounce of chilled espresso.
Unlike other Old Fashioneds, you’re best off making this in a separate mixing glass and stirring, before straining over ice into your rocks glass, to make sure all the ingredients are properly mixed.
Enjoy this drink with a cigar and you’ll have completed the set.
Brandy Old Fashioned
If you’re looking for alternatives to whiskey, try adding a more European feel to your Old Fashioned by using Brandy as the base spirit.
Typically topped up with about an ounce of lemon-lime soda such as sprite or 7-up in the modern day to give it a bit of extra flavor, it’s also possible to enjoy this drink exactly the way you would enjoy the whiskey version.
Particularly popular in Wisconsin, the Brandy Old Fashioned has been around almost as long as its whiskey counterpart and it’s a great variation for anyone looking to spice up their palate.
Rum Old Fashioned
Again, a simple switch of the base spirit of your Old Fashioned is going to give you a totally different sort of drink to enjoy.
Instead of a European flavor, the Rum Old Fashioned introduces more Caribbean notes to your drink. Best made with either dark or spiced rum, this drink will still bring out some bourbon notes, given most rums are aged in bourbon barrels, but with a more distinct punch that comes from making your spirit from sugar cane instead of wheat.
If you fancy, top this up with an ounce or so of ginger ale to get the real signature rum kick.
Warm Old Fashioned
The final variation on this list is a shoo-in for the cold winter months.
Muddle some orange and cherry in the bottom of your rocks glass with the sugar and bitters, then instead of topping with ice, top with hot water.
You’ve now got yourself a soothing, warming drink for those cold nights wrapped up on the armchair. A truly amazing way to enjoy an Old Fashioned in the harshest of weather.
I started bartending in 2017, just 4 days after my 18th birthday, at a cocktail bar in my hometown. I immediately fell in love with the art and science of mixology and have since worked in bars across Yarm, York and Liverpool in England.