How to make the Old Fashioned Cocktail at home. Jump to the Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe or watch our quick recipe video showing you how we make it.
With just three main ingredients, it’s simple to make and there are lots of options for adding your own spin. In our recipe below, we share how to make a basic Old Fashioned as well as our favorite ways to change it up.
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How to Make The Old Fashioned
Cocktails at home should be fun and never stressful so we aren’t going to bore you with all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to making the Old Fashioned. Instead, I’m going to show you how we make it when we’re in the mood for a cocktail at home, plus a few twists for fun!
Most commonly, bourbon or rye whiskey are called on for the Old Fashioned. That doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t other options. Gin, brandy and rum all work really, really well. We particularly love switching the whiskey for a dark, aged rum. In fact, if you were to walk into a bar and see us sipping on an Old Fashioned, you’d most likely see me with rye and Adam with aged rum.
Whatever we go for, we stick to mid-range priced bottles. For Bourbon and Rye, we like Four Rose’s a lot, especially for being so well priced. Bulleit is a popular choice, too. We have their 10 year Rye in our bar right now.
If you’re in the mood to try something more special, our friends swear by Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. There’s obviously many, many more options when it comes to whiskey so if you’ve got a favorite, share it in the comments below.
We stick to simple syrup. You can certainly use a superfine sugar (many people do), but keep in mind that the sugar needs to completely dissolve, otherwise you’ll end up with an unsweetened drink and sugary sediment at the bottom of your glass.
Simple syrup is ridiculously easy to make and since it lasts ages in the fridge, we can make one large batch and go back to it each time we want to make a cocktail.
Using simple syrup lets you play a little, too. Swapping white sugar for brown sugar makes a rich, almost caramel-like syrup that works well in Old Fashioned cocktails. Honey or maple syrup are also a nice idea.
Bitters, Orange and Cherries
We add two to three dashes of bitters. Our standby is Angostura bitters, but one look in a well stocked store or online proves there are lots to experiment with.
Depending on who makes it, the amount of fruit added to an Old Fashioned varies. We’ve seen everything from multiple slices of orange and an abundance of cherries muddled together then served in the glass to an Old Fashioned with no fruit whatsoever.
We like somewhere in between. A 2-inch piece of orange or blood orange peel and a cherry (or two for me) and we’re happy.
If we’re feeling feisty, we’ll go for a flaming orange twist. To do it, take a coin-sized slice of orange peel (with quite a bit of the white pith intact so it is easier to squeeze), squeeze it between your fingers and light a match or lighter next to it (be careful).
The oils will spark and flame out. If you do all of this close to or over the glass, a toasted orange aroma will fall down over the drink. We don’t add the flamed peel to the drink, but rubbing the flamed peel around the rim of the glass is a nice touch. (See our video above to see it in action)
The flavor and aroma of the drink really changes and while we don’t do this all the time, it’s fun to experience the difference.
Having Fun with The Ice
Since we’ve gotten into making Old Fashioned cocktails at home, Adam dorked out a little and looked into the how and why of clear, large ice cubes. None of this is required for your cocktail, but since we used two of his ice balls in our photo and considering we’ve already bonded over our love of the Old Fashioned, I thought I’d take a shot at explaining what we’ve learned.
I’m sure you’ve seen various large ice cube molds like this sphere mold (what we have). The problem is that if you just add water and freeze, you will be left with cloudy ice. Worse still, if you use the sphere mold, the water freezes in such a way that when you add the sphere to your drink, it has a very high chance of breaking into pieces.
This all matters because cloudier ice cubes are less dense so they melt much quicker and break apart easier than clearer ice cubes. In other words, the clearer ice cubes are, the less dilution your cocktail will need to endure. And bonus, clear ice looks cooler.
So how do you make clear ice cubes? There are quite a few gadgets you can buy online. We went the more DIY, budget-friendly route. After some research, we found this tutorial for making clear ice balls using an insulated mug.
We use our tap water — since we have found it freeze quite clear using this method. The tap water in the last home we had did not produce clear cubes so we found that it was best to use filtered or boiled water.
Here are the steps for doing it (or watch us do it at the end of the video above):
- Place a small container inside an insulated mug. We used a small Rubbermaid container and an inexpensive mug found online.
- Fill the mug with water so that the water line is above the small container inside the mug.
- Grab a sphere plastic mold. Remove the stopper that comes with it (this stopper would cover the hole used to fill the mold).
- Fill the mold with water.
- Using your finger, cover the hole so that no air can enter the mold. Invert it so that the hole is facing down then carefully place the mold into the mug with water. Don’t remove your finger until the hole is completely submerged in the water.
- Holding the sphere in place, pour out excess water in the mug so that the water line is at the same level as the small plastic container inside the mug. You can also use a straw for this step. Simply suck out the water until the water is at the correct level.
- Place the mug with mold into the freezer and do not disturb until completely frozen.
In the photo above, Adam is holding the clear ice ball on the left and an ice ball made by simply filling the mold and freezing on the right. Even though the ice isn’t 100% clear it is considerably better than the cloudy (and cracked) ice ball. It also seemed to melt less quickly. It is actually one of the ice balls seen in our Old Fashioned photo below.
Recipe updated, originally posted May 2015. Since posting this in 2015, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear and added a quick recipe video. – Adam and Joanne
Seriously Good Old Fashioned Recipe
With just three main ingredients, it’s simple to make and there are lots of options for adding your own spin. Most commonly, bourbon or rye whiskey are used. That doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t other options. Gin, brandy and rum all work really well. We particularly love switching the whiskey for a dark, aged rum.
You Will Need
1 to 2 teaspoons simple syrup, see our tips for making 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
Place simple syrup, bitters and the whiskey in an Old Fashioned glass, stir well then add 1 to 2 large ice cubes. Stir 2 to 3 times to chill then garnish with peel of orange and cherry.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- We stick to simple syrup over using sugar cubes or superfine sugar. Simple syrup is, as it’s name suggests, very easy to make and will last a month in the fridge. To make it, combine equal parts sugar (white or brown) and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the sugar completely dissolves. Cool then keep, stored in a glass jar in the refrigerator up to one month.
- Adding water: Some people add a splash of soda or still water to their Old Fashioned cocktails. We don’t do this since the ice (even if it is clear) will eventually melt a little and begin to dilute the cocktail anyway. We suggest tasting the drink before adding any water and go from there.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.