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.