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  • Writer's pictureJennifer DiPasquale

The Old Fashioned - A classic but does it always have to be?

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

Any bourbon or rye drinker will tell you their go to cocktail (when they aren't drinking their whiskey straight) is the Old Fashioned. That is probably because it is as close to straight whiskey as you can get in a cocktail. But there are many ways to make an Old Fashioned and everyone has their favs.

Historically, the Old Fashioned was called the Whiskey Cocktail but when cocktails started to become more varied in the late 1800s the name needed to change. There are different stories on where and when the Old Fashioned was invented and if you are into history that may be fun for you to research. The original recipe includes American whiskey, bitters, sugar, and lemon peel. That recipe is still used but there are different variations out there. There is also a raging debate about how to make a "proper" Old Fashioned.

The biggest argument is to muddle or not to muddle the fruit. The other is adding club soda to the classic. For most it is a huge no no! But some people (those drinking Old Fashioneds in the 70s) only know the drink for it's fruity, fizzy nature. The newer (younger) Old Fashioned drinkers or veteran (much older) Old Fashioned drinkers will tell you to never muddle and for God sake never ever add Club Soda. You can also find debates over simpler differences, such as sugar. Traditionally a sugar cube is used and will be muddled with a small amount of water and bitters. Should that cube be raw brown sugar? white sugar? organic sugar? Is a cube even necessary? Can I use loose sugar? Can I use simple syrup? How much sugar should I use?

So many questions for such a simple cocktails. And I haven't even gotten into bitters. Angostura bitters are the choice of most, but Angostura also comes in an orange flavor which goes nicely with an Old Fashioned. Then there are the many flavored bitters, such as Woodford chocolate bitters, Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters (blend of cacao, cinnamon & spices), Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters (blend of cinnamon, allspice, and island spices) and many more.

If you want to go classic, follow my recipe below. I will give you both the nonmuddled fruit version and the muddled

Old Fashioned

2oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey

1 sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

4-6 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 teaspoon water

Orange peel


1. Add sugar, water, and bitters to a mixing glass and muddle (or stir) until sugar is dissolved

2. Add ice

3. Add whiskey to the mixing glass and stir to chill

4. Strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube

5. Twist the orange peel over the glass to release the oils and drop into the glass along with a cherry (I suggest Bada Bing or Luxardo cherries)

6. Enjoy!

* If you want to muddle the fruit add orange slice and cherries (use two) to the glass with the sugar, water and bitters and muddle. Some like to use less sugar (or no sugar at all) when muddling the fruit because all the sweetness they want comes from the fruit juices.

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