Old Fashioned


Don't be fooled by the inherent simplicity of the drink — there is room for creativity and personalization when it comes to making an Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioned
Photo: © Lucas Allen
Total Time:
5 mins

Whether you prefer to use rye, bourbon, or a less traditional base spirit in an Old Fashioned, this classic cocktail is dependably warming, sweet, and comforting. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Old Fashioned is a direct descendant of the earliest known “true” cocktail, which in 1806 consisted of “a little water, a little sugar, a lot of liquor, and a couple splashes of bitters.” Likewise, Charles Browne, author of the 1939 Gun Club Drink Book, suggests that the Old Fashioned was the first American cocktail. As with any drink tracing its roots back to the early 1900s, there's controversy around who and when it was first concocted, but we can be fairly sure that the addition of fruits like cherries and oranges — especially to garnish — is a more modern revision to the recipe. "The Old Fashioned, with its layered taste, is an open invitation for both the whiskey lover and the froufrou cocktail drinkers. It's frilly but disciplined," write Paul Harrington and Laura Moorhead in Cocktail: The Drinks Bible for the 21st Century.

Don't be fooled by the inherent simplicity of the drink — there is room for creativity and personalization when it comes to making an Old Fashioned. If you're craving a sweeter version, opt for bourbon instead of rye; for a less boozy Old Fashioned, feel free to add more than the recommended two dashes of Angostura bitters. Looking for more of a citrus-forward kick to the classic? Add a dash or two of Cointreau or Triple-Sec, and you'll never look back. There's also plenty of opportunity to play around with glassware for an Old Fashioned. While many recipes call for muddling a sugar cube and bitters together in a mixing glass, we prefer the simplicity of from using rich simple syrup (which, as the name suggests, is more concentrated in flavor and sweetness than regular simple syrup). To make rich simple syrup for an Old Fashioned (and a number of other cocktails), combine two parts granulated sugar and one part water in a saucepan over medium-high heat; the resulting liquid should be smooth and silky, without the gritty texture of raw sugar. Rich simple syrup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three months, or until it crystalizes.

Once you've mastered the original, you can try out some of our favorite riffs on this crowd-pleasing cocktail, like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which calls for tequila as well as mezcal, the Creole Old Fashioned, which is perfect for fans of rum and Cognac, or even an Apple Old-Fashioned, which gets an extra kick of sweetness from Applejack 86 brandy,


Old-Fashioned Cocktail

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey

  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters

  • 1/4 ounce rich simple syrup

  • 1 orange twist, for garnish


  1. In a mixing glass, stir together two ounces of bourbon, whiskey or rye, rich simple syrup, and Angostura bitters.

  2. Strain into a rocks glass over one large ice cube, and garnish with an orange peel and/or a maraschino cherry, if desired.

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