Seriously Good Old Fashioned

How to make the Old Fashioned Cocktail at home. 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. Jump to the Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Seriously Good Old Fashioned

How to Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail

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!

Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Alcohol

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.

You may also like: How to Make a Classic Bourbon Manhattan — You only need three main ingredients to make a classic bourbon Manhattan cocktail recipe at home.

The Sugar

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.

Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

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.

Peeling an orange for an old fashioned

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.

clear ice cubes for cocktails

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):

  1. Place 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 so that the water line is above the small container inside the mug.
  3. Grab a sphere plastic mold. Remove the stopper that comes with it (this stopper would cover the hole used to fill the mold).
  4. Fill the mold with water.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Place the mug with mold into the freezer and do not disturb until completely frozen.
Making Clear Ice Cubes

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

  • PREP

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.

Makes 1 Drink

Watch Us Make the Recipe

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.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

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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25 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Jimmy April 19, 2020, 7:13 pm

    If you want Crystal clear ice. You can boil it before freezing and this will produce ice with no haze.

  • Iain Watson August 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Thank you for not only a comprehensive tour of the old-fashioned recipe but also your derivations with Rum and other whiskeys. I particularly liked the flaming orange peel( Something I now use at my parties along with sabering champagne bottles !!). I started using Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Port Barrel Finish as my ingredients. I learned about this at my local bar in NYC in the building I live in ( Ascent bar at 25 Columbus Circle). My neighbor is Micheal Keaton and he loves the drink !!

  • Rhoda Danforth June 17, 2018, 2:05 pm

    We just attended a wedding where one of the featured drinks was an Old Fashioned. Home from the celebration, we had to make them ourselves. We didn’t have an orange on hand for peel so I added one bar spoon of orange juice. We are enjoying them. Thanks for the recipe and all f the tips.

  • Stuart June 3, 2018, 8:14 am

    My favourite drink and what a great guide – especially the ice tips! Thanks!

  • Rose May 7, 2018, 10:35 am

    This recipe would never fly in Wisconsin, where the Old Fashioned is practically the state drink. Brandy is the norm/favorite and muddling is optional, with a sweet soda like Sprite used as a topper (No need for simple syrup). Bitters is the key, with more than a couple of drops, to be sure…more like a couple of shakes. Garnish with half an orange slice and maraschino cherry. Serve over ice, and the glass is full. Whiskey and brandy are the only options.

    • Steve March 23, 2020, 10:47 pm

      I was thinking the same thing 😉

  • Kathy R January 13, 2018, 8:31 pm

    My new favorite drink. I hate whiskey or bourbon put the key is ice. I increased the simply syrup to my taste but found the secret is the ice. If you let it sit about 10 minutes it’s perfect and will become your favorite drink too. I also recommend ice balls (you can buy the molds online) so the ice melts slower:

  • Mertie Clerico January 5, 2018, 2:48 am

    Your the man

  • Austin December 6, 2017, 9:40 pm

    I have tried to “wing it” for months, but using this actual recipe helped so much. Tastes just like an old fashioned from a good craft bar. Great tip to leave out the extra water. I add a Filthy black cherry to mine. I’m gonna go grow a beard now.

  • Forrester November 17, 2017, 9:14 pm

    George Dickel Barrel Select makes a great Old Fashioned!

  • Dave April 22, 2017, 8:59 pm

    Instead of the simple syrup, which is fine, I use pure maple syrup. Had at a “cocktail lounge” adds a new flavor and not over powering.

  • Amy Parker October 12, 2016, 9:57 pm

    If you use hot water to make ice cubes, you get crystal clear ones. Heating the water sends off the extra air floating around in it. Sounds crazy but works great!

    • Tara December 21, 2016, 2:41 pm

      I’m going to try this hot-water method. It sounds scientifically plausible. Thanks for the tip!

    • Kathy R January 13, 2018, 8:32 pm

      Boiled water is the key to crystal clear ice

  • Gina April 14, 2016, 5:21 pm

    Delicious! Fun with the ice, too. 🙂

    • Sue Kramer May 19, 2019, 7:41 am

      I’m going to make my simple syrup using muscavado sugar. Had it in a $14.00 Old Fashion the other day and it was delicious.Thanks for your tips. Like the orange peel idea. Grapefruit works too.

  • Jennifer April 2, 2016, 4:49 pm

    You could always boil the water to make the ice cubes clear.

    • Adam May 16, 2016, 5:09 pm

      Hi Jennifer, We did try to boil the water but this didn’t seem to work all the time for us. We found that the directional freezing method, aka “mug method”, worked pretty consistently.

  • Ling Ling March 29, 2016, 8:49 pm

    Thank you for the ideas and recipe. I enjoyed reading your dissertation out of all the others when I Googled it. I just started drinking bourbon and this is the only way I can drink it. Never been a brown liquor drinker. I am kind of in love with this drink now.

  • Thalia @ butter and brioche May 2, 2015, 6:41 pm

    I’ve never made an old fashioned before so thanks for giving me the inspiration to make this recipe!


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