The Best Old Fashioned Cocktail

How to make the best old fashioned cocktail. In our recipe below, we share our favorite recipe for an Old Fashioned at home and a few of our twists to change it up.

Old Fashioned Recipe Video

To make a classic old fashioned, you will place all the ingredients (whiskey or other liquor, sugar, and bitters) into a glass. Stir a few times, and then add ice. We like giant ice cubes or ice spheres. See my tips below for making them yourself. Tips for choosing the best alcohol for this recipe are below!

If you love whiskey cocktails, you might also enjoy our Manhattan cocktail. We make it with bourbon. Like this old-fashioned recipe, it only calls for three main ingredients.

Classic Old Fashioned Cocktail

Old Fashioned Ingredients

A classic Old Fashioned Cocktail calls for rye whiskey or bourbon. We like to stick with reliable, mid-range bottles. Four Roses is a fantastic everyday choice, especially for the price. Bulleit is popular, too (we’ve got their 10-year rye right now). Our friends rave about Woodford Reserve Double Oaked if you want something special. Of course, the world of whiskey is vast, so if you have a favorite, let us know in the comments!

Don’t limit yourself to just whiskey and bourbon. Gin, brandy, and rum also work in this classic cocktail. We have a soft spot for dark, aged rum. If you see us sipping an old fashioned cocktail, I’ll have one made with bourbon while Adam goes for the dark rum.

The best old fashioned recipes call for sugar to balance the alcohol. I use simple syrup, which quickly dissolves and is simple to make. It also allows us to play around and use brown sugar instead of white sugar for the syrup, giving our cocktail a caramel-like flavor that works well with whiskey or rum.

Brown Sugar Simple Syrup for an old fashioned cocktail

We use two or three dashes of Angostura bitters, which are sold in most liquor stores. A well-stocked store or a quick online search will give you a world of options for more varieties of of bitters.

I also add some fruit. The amount of fruit in an Old Fashioned depends on who’s making it. We’ve seen everything from a handful of muddled oranges and cherries to nothing at all! When I make them, I stick with a piece of orange peel (blood orange is excellent) and a cherry or two.

Peeling an orange for an old fashioned

Try a flaming orange peel! Take a coin-sized slice of orange peel (leave some white pith for easier squeezing), squeeze it between your fingers, and light a match next to it (be careful!). The oils will ignite in a quick flash. Hold it close to, or over, your glass to infuse some toasted orange aroma. We don’t add the peel, but a quick rub of the flamed peel on the glass rim is a nice touch. (Check out our video above to see how we do it.)

Making Clear Ice Cubes for Your Old Fashioned Cocktail

Adam’s gone full-on ice nerd since we’ve been making old fashioned cocktails at home. Regular ice cubes no longer cut it (although I’m not here to shame you into not using them)! Cloudy ice melts fast and breaks apart, which waters down your drink. Clear ice looks way cooler and keeps your cocktail strong.

clear ice cubes for cocktails

We love giant ice spheres, but they’re tricky to freeze clear. There are fancy gadgets, but we found an excellent DIY method. Our tap water freezes clear with this technique, but depending on where you live, you might need to use filtered or boiled water.

Here’s the trick (or watch our video):

  1. Nest a small container inside an insulated mug. We used a small Rubbermaid container and an inexpensive mug found online.
  2. Fill the mug with water, making sure it covers the small container.
  3. Fill your sphere mold with water, then plug the hole with your finger.
  4. Flip the mold upside-down and carefully submerge it in the mug.
  5. Lower the water level in the mug until it’s even with the top of the small container.
  6. Freeze it solid!
Making Clear Ice Cubes for an Old Fashioned Cocktail

Adam’s holding our DIY (almost) clear ice ball on the left in the photo above. The one on the right is a regular frozen mold—way cloudier! It did melt slower than regular ice, as seen in our Old Fashioned photo below.

Our Best Old Fashioned Cocktails

The Best Old Fashioned Cocktail

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The Old Fashioned is a simple classic cocktail with just three main ingredients. This also leaves plenty of room for your own creative twists! While bourbon or rye whiskey are traditional, don’t be afraid to experiment. Gin, brandy, and rum all shine in this cocktail. We especially love the depth and richness that a dark, aged rum brings to the party.

Makes 1 Drink

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 to 2 teaspoons simple syrup, see how to make simple syrup

3 dashes bitters, Angostura is great and readily available

2 ounces mid-range bourbon or rye whiskey

One 2-inch piece of orange peel, optional

1 to 2 maraschino cherries, optional

Directions

    1Combine simple syrup, bitters, and whiskey in an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well.

    2Add 1 to 2 large ice cubes and stir a few more times to chill.

    3Garnish with an orange peel and cherry.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Simple syrup: Here is our easy tutorial for making it at home. It can be stored in the fridge for about one month.
  • Adding water: Some people add a splash of soda or still water to their Old Fashioned cocktails. We suggest tasting the drink before adding any water and going from there.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Calories 166 / Protein 0 g / Carbohydrate 7 g / Dietary Fiber 0 g / Total Sugars 6 g / Total Fat 0 g / Saturated Fat 0 g / Cholesterol 0 mg
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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32 comments… Leave a Review
  • John Minor November 25, 2023, 3:36 pm

    Great recipe. I had some friends over that weren’t whiskey drinkers, so I used Elijah Craig and added a bit of sugar free 7-up to lighten it. They loved it!

    Reply
  • Ashley February 2, 2023, 12:25 am

    Great recipe! Agree with Bulleit and Woodford Reserve as excellent bourbons. Our personal faves are Weller Special Reserve and Buffalo Trace, but they can be hard to find, so stock up when you do! Definitely flame the orange peel and rub on the rim when possible, serve in a glencairn or tapered glass to experience the full aroma and flavor profile, and add a Luxardo cherry or two – perfection!

    Reply
    • Joanne February 2, 2023, 1:30 pm

      We are thrilled you enjoyed it, Ashley!

      Reply
  • Annie January 6, 2023, 8:43 pm

    We have made this a few times now and I’m curious how thick your syrup is when chilled? Thick or runny? Ours seems thin and I’m wondering if that’s right. We added a bit more syrup to ours but this is phenomenal. We have tried for years to get a good OF recipe that was consistent and rich. this is hands down the best OF we’ve had. Soooo good.

    Reply
    • Adam January 7, 2023, 5:50 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Our syrup is pretty thin when chilled. That is very normal.

      Reply
  • Joe September 5, 2022, 1:23 pm

    Muddle a slice of orange with Bourbon infused cherry and Angostura bitters, add Bourbon and ice, then a splash of sparkling water. Stir. Yum.

    Reply
  • Lisa December 19, 2021, 2:00 pm

    Served at holiday gathering, so easy to mix up and great balance in cocktail. Used brown sugar for the simple syrup,great addition!

    Reply
  • Soraya Velarde August 23, 2021, 12:03 pm

    Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the issues. It was definitely informative. Your website is very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  • Linda Schuster April 18, 2021, 1:05 pm

    Can I premake a whole bottle of old fashions?

    Reply
    • Joanne July 12, 2021, 1:40 pm

      Yes.

      Reply
  • CC January 13, 2021, 9:38 pm

    The best recipe – I don’t use water and I middle the orange peel with the simple syrup & bitters to extract the orange oils.

    Reply
    • Art August 29, 2021, 1:35 pm

      Yes, no water necessary. Water will come from ice mellt.

      Reply

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