Old Fashioned: The Secret Recipes You Need To Know

The old-fashioned is a drink created by combining sugar, bitters, and water in a muddle, then adding whiskey (usually rye or bourbon) and garnishing with an orange twist or zest and a cocktail cherry.

Old Fashioned Cocktail IngredientsColonel James E. Pepper, a member of the Pendennis Club and, by some accounts, a famous bourbon distiller, is credited with inventing the Old Fashioned cocktail. It’s generally served in a rocks glass (also called an old-fashioned glass), which predates the cocktail. In his 1895 book, George Kappeler includes several of the earliest published recipes for old-fashioned cocktails. Whiskey, brandy, Holland gin, and Old Tom gin recipes are included.

It’s a swirled drink that’s usually produced immediately in the glass from which you’ll consume it. Some people choose to put muddled sugar in their whiskey drink instead of simple syrup (doused in strongly spiced Angostura bitters). As you sip your way down the drink, the flavor evolves, starting bracingly strong and ending softer and sweeter.

To avoid grit, a deliberate mix is required. An orange peel (or lemon peel) garnish, dropped in after being expressed over the top of the drink, adds a citrusy aroma and a hint of bitterness to balance the drink, while an orange slice adds juiciness. Some people prefer bourbon, while others prefer peppery rye—either way, starting with higher-proof spirits improves the drink.

The Old Fashioned is ideal for the holidays, chilly evenings, and pretty much any time you’re sitting around a fire. It’s a powerful, energetic cocktail with hints of citrus and sweetness.

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Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients

Your Old Fashioned’s main ingredient is bourbon whiskey, so pick a nice one. Low-quality bourbons are simply too bitter in this situation.

Four Roses are one of the greatest bourbons for Old Fashioned cocktails. It’s only 80 proof, so it’s not too strong. It’s also reasonably priced and lends itself well to drinks, with undertones of cinnamon spice and vanilla.

Syrup from maple trees

Most Old Fashioned recipes call for a sugar cube or a tablespoon of simple syrup, as I previously stated. Simple syrup is an extra step; sugar is grainy; they’re both sweet. Real maple syrup is simple to incorporate into the drink and tastes fantastic. Because we won’t be using much of it, the flavor will be faint.

Angostura Bitters

Bitters are made from a combination of botanicals, and only a few drops add a lot of flavor and depth to a cocktail. With classic Angostura bitters, you can’t go wrong.

Bartenders will frequently add another dash of bitters from a different brand, allowing you to create your own concoction.

Cocktail Cherry

It’s up to you if you want to add a cocktail cherry. Spend a little extra on a jar of Luxardo cherries to give yourself an excuse to prepare additional whiskey cocktails.

Peel an orange

Without a twist of citrus, no classic Old Fashioned is complete. Although oranges are preferred to lemons, you can use either.


Ice cools the drink and dilutes it slightly, mellowing the alcohol’s harsh bite. Extra-large ice cubes, which I freeze in this ice cube tray, are my preferred method (affiliate link). Large ice cubes are good because they melt slowly and you only need one for each drink.

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Whiskey old-fashioned recipe:

Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients

In a whiskey glass, dissolve a little lump of sugar in a little water; add two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a slice of lemon peel, and one jigger of whiskey.
Serve with a small bar spoon of the mixture, leaving the spoon in the glass.

Basic cocktail recipes incorporated Curaçao or other liqueurs by the 1860s, as indicated by Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book. These liqueurs were not listed in early 19th century descriptions, nor in descriptions of “old-fashioned” drinks in the Chicago Daily Tribune in the early 1880s; they were also lacking from Kappeler’s old-fashioned recipes.

The key distinctions between old-fashioned cocktail recipes and late-nineteenth-century cocktail recipes are the preparation procedures, the substitution of sugar and water for simple or Gomme syrup, and the lack of extra liqueurs.

These old-fashioned cocktail recipes are exactly that: old-fashioned drinks.

The cocktail is made with gin

Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients

Make sure you use a little bar glass,  3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup, 2 [dashes], Bogart’s bitters, a wine glass of gin, and a dash or two of Curaçao, Fill one-third of the glass with fine ice, shake vigorously, then strain into a glass.


Holland Gin Cocktail (Old Fashioned) Recipe:

Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients

In a whiskey glass with a little water, crush a small lump of sugar, then add ice, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a little piece of lemon peel, and one jigger of Holland gin. Using a small bar spoon, combine the ingredients.


According to a book by David Embury published in 1948. Two other recipes from the 1900s differ in their exact ingredients but remove the cherry, which was introduced after 1930, as well as the soda water, which is called for on occasion. Late in the nineteenth century, orange bitters were a common component.

The original old-fashioned recipe would have used Irish, Bourbon, or rye whiskey, depending on what was available in America at the time. However, brandy is substituted for whiskey in some areas, like Wisconsin (sometimes called a brandy old-fashioned). Other spirits were eventually popularized, such as a gin recipe that became famous in the late 1940s.

An orange twist or a maraschino cherry, or both, are common garnishes for an old-fashioned, however, these additions were made around 1930, sometime after the original recipe was created.

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While some recipes began to utilize orange zest sparingly for flavor, the technique of muddled orange and other fruit became popular in the 1990s. Some recent twists on the classic include adding blood orange soda to make a fizzy old-fashioned or muddled strawberries to make a strawberry old-fashioned.

Modern versions may also incorporate intricately carved ice, though cocktail critic David Wonderich points out that this, along with virtually all other adornments or additions, goes against the old-straightforward fashioned’s ethos.

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