This classic old fashioned recipe is easy to make with bourbon, bitters, orange peel and your choice of sweetener.
Let’s hear it for the most classic of classic cocktails — the old fashioned. ♡
This simple whiskey cocktail will forever and always be a favorite. Made simply with your choice of whiskey, bitters, sweetener, and an orange peel, this drink is easy to craft in just a few minutes. And it’s one of those satisfying, swanky cocktails that never goes out of style.
I’m partial to adding an orange twist, a chunky ice cube, and a Luxardo cherry to my old fashioned cocktails. But you’re welcome, of course, to garnish and serve yours however you please. I’ve included various options below for various types of whiskey and sweeteners that you can use. But I have to say that the classic bourbon and sugar cube combo will never let you down.
So grab a glass and let’s craft a delicious old fashioned together.
Old Fashioned Ingredients
Before we get the full recipe below, here are a few notes about the old fashioned ingredients you will need to make this cocktail:
Whiskey: A classic old-fashioned cocktail is traditionally made with bourbon or rye whiskey. I recommend a high-proof bourbon with bold flavor notes, so that its flavor will not be overpowered by the orange and bitters.
Bitters: Angostura bitters are most commonly used in this cocktail. I generally add about 3 to 4 shakes, but feel free to add as many as you prefer.
Sweetener: A sugar cube (1 teaspoon granulated white sugar) is said to have been the original sweetener for this cocktail, which is typically soaked with a few shakes of bitters and muddled with a splash of water. You’re welcome to go that route, or measure out 1 teaspoon of granulated white sugar if you don’t keep sugar cubes on hand. Or of course, you can also use whatever other variety and amount of sweetener you prefer in your cocktail, such as simple syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar.
Ice: I highly recommend using a large ice cube (either a cube or sphere) in this cocktail. A larger ice cube has less total surface area, which slows down the melting process and dilutes your drink less quickly. That said, feel free to use whatever type of ice you have on hand. And if you prefer not to serve the cocktail on ice, you can stir or shake the cocktail with the ice until chilled and then strain out the ice before serving.
Orange peel (optional): I feel like orange peel adds so much to this simple cocktail. Simply use a Y-peeler or a swivel peeler to make a 1-inch-wide strip of fresh orange peel. Then give the orange peel a twist directly above the drink to express the oils into the glass, which adds such a lovely citrus perfume to the cocktail. For extra orange flavor, you’re welcome to also run the orange peel around the rim of the glass before adding in the other ingredients. And I always love adding the peel to the drink as well as a pretty garnish.
Luxardo cherries (optional): We always add one or two good-quality maraschino cherries (such as Luxardo cherries) to our old fashioned cocktails, which I think taste absolutely divine with the bourbon, but you’re welcome to leave the cocktail cherries out if you prefer.
How To Make An Old Fashioned
Here are the basic steps for how to make an old fashioned cocktail:
Muddle the sugar. If you’re going the classic sugar cube route, add it to a lowball glass, top with the water and bitters, and use a muddler (or the end of a wooden spoon) to muddle and stir the mixture until the sugar is nearly dissolved. If you’re using a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup or simple syrup, you can skip this step and stir the sweetener and bitters directly into the bourbon.
Mix. Add the bourbon and a large ice cube. Stir vigorously for 10 seconds or until the liquid is chilled.
Garnish. Add a maraschino cherry or two, if desired. Gently twist the orange peel* directly over the glass, in order to express its oil, then drop the orange peel into the glass.
Serve. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Old Fashioned Cocktail FAQ
When did the old fashioned cocktail originate? The historical origins of this cocktail are definitely murky, but it likely originated sometime during the mid-19th century. Here’s a great article about the “muddled” history of the old fashioned if you’d like to read more.
Is it best to use bourbon or rye for old fashioned cocktails? Up to you. Bourbon tends to be more sweet and full-bodied, whereas rye is drier, less sweet and can be a bit spicy.
What is the best bourbon for old fashioned cocktails? I recommend a high-proof bourbon with bold flavor notes, so that the bourbon flavor is not overpowered by the orange and bitters. Bulleit, Four Roses Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace are some widely-available bourbons that I always enjoy in this cocktail.
What is the best glass for an old fashioned? A lowball glass (also known as an old fashioned glass or a rocks glass) is traditionally used for this cocktail.
Does an old-fashioned need ice? You need ice to chill the cocktail. But you are welcome to strain out the ice before serving if you prefer.
Favorite Whiskey Cocktails
Looking for more whiskey cocktail recipes to try? Here are a few of my favorites:
Sweetener options: Feel free to use a different type of granulated sugar if you prefer, such as coconut sugar. Or you can sub in a liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or simple syrup, in which case you can just directly mix the sweetener and bitters in with the bourbon.
Orange peel: I also love to run the orange peel around the rim of the glass before mixing the drink to add an extra hint of orange flavor.
I LOVE myself a good Old Fashioned. Especially here in WI, we are serious about making these not from scratch, don’t even think about it!
Paul LOVES Bulleit Bourbon…and I prefer to drink it just like this – sugar, bitters, cherry and orange. YES.
I feel the same way Ali. I love Mad Men. But watching it stresses me out. They characters are all just so terrible to each other. No morals what so ever!
Beautiful photos, as usual :-)
Hey Ali! I have been doing a cocktail series for the current season of Mad Men and you are putting me to shame! :) I’m not so good with photographing cocktails and you did a kick-ass job here! This is coming up on my list of cocktails in my series, but I’m going to have to link to your post – totally awesome!
and yes…. keep watching! There’s an episode in Season 6 where you will just want to reach out and smack Don into Jersey! :)
For a quick cheat, pour a healthy serving of bourbon and a splash of Grand Marnier.
Don’t forget your can make them with Brandy!
I love the GIF and love this cocktail! Old-fashions are always something I order out on special occasions, but I’ve never made them at home!
Love an Old Fashioned but with SOCO, or better known as southern comfort. No sugar needed, give it a try!!!
This is such an awesome recipe, my husband loves old fashions, I feel they’re becoming more ‘hip’ again lol (makes me sound super old) so now I can pretend I know what I’m doing and make this for him! Love the gif, too cute!
I really need to try this drink. I hear so many people rave about it.
Me and my mom have been binge watching season 6 too!! I have actually never had an old fashioned but I think I might have to!!
Without getting into spoilers, Don definitely has some consequences for his actions coming up! Stick with it :) Several of my male friends have gotten really into old fashions lately, they just look so fancy when you drink them, I think
This is a great recipe you’ve got going! The old fashioned is my drink of choice – not to mention I love Bulliet bourbon. For me, though, I stick the with the sugar cube. You must put a couple of drops of water over the cube (or loose sugar if that’s what’s being used) for the sugar to dissolve. It takes longer this way but there is something about the creation and anticipation that I enjoy. I also use orange and I muddle in the orange every so slightly once the sugar cube is dissolved, then I put a couple of dashes Angostura, the bourbon and top with three ice cubes. I may or may not add the cherry (depending on if I have them).
It’s Monday – I think an old fashioned is in order tonight!
I use sugar cubes as well since I don’t make enough of these to keep simple syrup around. Plus I use cask-strength bourbon (Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve), which needs to be cut with water anyway, so muddling the sugar cube in the bitters and that water works well.
But I’m glad to know you don’t muddle the fruit. I’m always annoyed when I order one and it comes back pink or red because the cherries and orange slice were muddled.
I have been on a little bit of a bourbon kick lately. Must try this gorgeous classic!
Beautiful blog post & lovely recipe! Classic!
Just a note–if distilled spirits are actually distilled, there should be no gluten in the booze. Obviously, if it’s a gluten based spirit, there may be gluten particles around (just like in a kitchen), but there shouldn’t be any non-distilled gluten in the spirit. Legally, manufacturers are required to include “distilled” on their label, if it is actually ran through the still.
Looks great. Love your writing style. My brother made some cherry bitters with absenthe. Going to try this with the cherry bitters instead of the actual cherry and muddle up my orange slice a bit.
Does anyone have a conversion recipe for a liter pitcher of old fashioneds?
Of course it is made with bourbon. Anyone who would even think of using rye would probably claim that there really is such a thing as a Vodka Martini.
Tried this OF recipe using TX Whiskey and it was amazing. Had a frozen OF popsicle a couple of months ago that was made with TX Whiskey and it was delicious so I was looking for OF cocktail recipe to use that awesome whiskey and this one was perfect! While the frozen pop was good, the cocktail is so much better. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing, Alicia — we’re so glad you enjoyed it!
An Old Fashion is such a relaxing drink. Been drinking them for years (74yo). Make them exactly this way but use Angostura Orange Bitters. Gives them a slight orange flavor
That’s right, but you can always add some if you like!
You can’t beat a good old fashioned!
I make my old fashioned “light” by adding a splash of Sprite or 7-up.
Also, using good cherries is necessary.
I love an Old Fashioned and Luxardo cherries are the best! Awesome photos as usual.
I know what’s on for happy hour tonight 😍
Have you tried Amarena cherries? Trader Joe’s carries some that are considerably cheaper than Luxardo cherries and delicious, for anyone wanting a cheaper alternative.