What is an Old Fashioned Cocktail?

Learn about this classic cocktail & how to make it

A typical Old Fashioned is a cocktail that is created by muddling sugar with bitters, along with a little bit of water and whiskey. Unlike other cocktails, the Old Fashioned is served in an old fashioned glass or a rocks glass, as this predated the cocktail. But what is an Old Fashioned?

old fashioned cocktail

The original Old Fashioned dates back to the late 1800s, made with sugar cubes, bitters, whiskey and ice. It was simple, minimal and enjoyed by all. The Old Fashioned is considered one of the most sophisticated cocktails, and is synonymous with the jazz age of the 1920s. 

Why is it called an Old Fashioned?

So, why do we call it an Old Fashioned? There are a few reasons. For instance, the name is derived from the way in which it is concocted. People who refused to move with the times, as new whiskey cocktails were made, asked for their drinks to be made the old fashioned way, and so this cocktail was born. 

The Old Fashioned way was to take a whiskey glass, put a lump of sugar inside, and dissolve it in a dash of water. Then, two dashes of bitters would be added, and a lump of ice. Then, the customer would be handed a bottle of bourbon, and allowed to pour their own drink. No wonder it was so beloved! 

How do you make an Old Fashioned?

The thing with an Old Fashioned is that it has to be done right, and you need to ensure that it is made to perfection. So, how do you make an Old Fashioned?

bartender making an old fashioned

Well, a basic Old Fashioned drink is made with very few ingredients. These are usually one sugar cube, 2oz of whiskey, a few dashes of Angostura bitters and a few dashes of water. Such a simplistic and minimalist cocktail, it comes as no surprise that this one is one of the world’s favorites. 

As the Old Fashioned is basically just ice, sugar, booze and Angostura bitters, the whiskey is considered the most important and pivotal part of the Old Fashioned. An Old Fashioned is only as good as the whiskey that you put into it. So, take a look at our recommendations of the 9 best whiskies for Old Fashioneds to take this classic cocktail to the next level! 

Today, an Old Fashioned typically includes a twist of orange peel as well for a touch of citrus and a colorful garnish.

What does an Old Fashioned taste like?

old fashioned

The flavor of an Old Fashioned depends largely on the whiskey you use – whether you use a bourbon or rye whiskey, the taste of your whiskey of choice will affect the taste of the drink. The spirit itself is the bulk of the drink.

The other ingredients, the sugar and the bitters, also add flavor. The sugar sweetens the drink, while the bitters keeps it from getting too sweet and adds a touch of spice with flavors like clove and cinnamon.

As the ice melts in an Old Fashioned, the drink is diluted and the flavor of the whiskey is softened a bit.

Old Fashioned Recipe

Make your own Old Fashioned to taste it for yourself. Use this recipe:

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Orange peel (optional)

Muddle the sugar cube and the bitters in the bottom of a rocks glass. You can also use a dash of water if needed. Once muddled, add your whiskey and stir.

Add ice – one large ice cube is common, but a few smaller ice cubes work as well. Twist your orange peel to express it, and rub the peel along the rim of the glass before placing it in your drink.

Final Thoughts

The Old Fashioned is one of the most classic cocktails that is still popular today. Try making your own or order it the next time you’re out!

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Written by Brian N

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.