Classic Old-Fashioned Recipe: A Timeless Cocktail Masterpiece

There's an art to the old-fashioned, and we're here to help you master it with our recipe and helpful tips to make it your own.

Updated January 15, 2024
Old-Fashioned Cocktail

There's a reason why an old-fashioned cocktail is a true classic. Although simple, this cocktail has a deep flavor profile that makes sipping the warm notes of the whiskey and aromatic bitters so easy to savor. The subtle hint of citrus gives this cocktail a zesty undertone that instantly warms you up from the inside out. Talk about a drink that doesn't go out of style. 


  • Ice and king cube
  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 5 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Orange peel, orange wheel, and cherry for garnish


  1. In a mixing glass, add ice, whiskey, simple syrup, orange bitters, and aromatic bitters.
  2. Stir rapidly to chill.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice or a king cube.
  4. Express the orange peel over the drink by twisting the peel between your fingers, then run the outside of the peel along the rim. Discard.
  5. Garnish with an orange wheel and a cherry.

Related: 10 Best Cocktail Bitters to Give Your Old-Fashioned a Boost

Fast Fact

After first appearing in the 1800s, old-fashioned drinks contained spirits (often bourbon or sometimes brandy), bitters, water, and sugar. Soon, bartenders began to change the recipe. Some added orange liqueur or absinthe in varying proportions.

Variations and Substitutions

The classic old-fashioned has gone through innumerable changes. There are enough variations and substitutions to make any classic drink lover happy. However, as it is a spirit-forward cocktail with few ingredients, there's no place to hide a poor ingredient, so choose high quality when you can.

  • Use a specific style of whiskey: rye whiskey for an old-fashioned with a bite, Scotch for a smokier flavor, Irish whiskey for caramel notes, bourbon for a sweeter profile, or Canadian whisky for a milder, smoother drink.
  • A flavored bourbon, even just a gentle flavor, can alter the core profile of any old-fashioned. Consider an oaky or honey whiskey.
  • Instead of simple syrup, go the traditional route with a finely muddled sugar cube with a few dashes of bitters.
  • For a fruitier old-fashioned, muddle an orange peel and cherry with the sugar cube. 
  • Play around with different combinations of bitters: cherry + walnut, cranberry + molasses, cardamom + aromatic, toasted almond + smoked.
  • The traditional recipe calls for a splash of water, this is to allow some of the flavors to dilute for a milder drink.


Garnishes shouldn't be approached as an afterthought. They're a key part of a cocktail. Not only do they add a visual experience, but they also impart a nose and flavor that would otherwise be missing. They're an extension of the drink experience.

  • Use a cocktail cherry for a more luxurious old-fashioned.
  • Flame an orange peel for a toasty experience.
  • Use a dehydrated citrus wheel, such as an orange or lemon, for an elevated look.
  • Candied ginger adds a spicy yet sweet flavor.

A Classic for Everyone

The beauty of a classic old-fashioned recipe is there's one for everyone. Each subtle little twist creates the perfect cocktail. So whether you go back to the beginning with a sugar cube and splash of water or stick to the modern simple syrup and bitters, it's well worth learning your way around this classic.

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Classic Old-Fashioned Recipe: A Timeless Cocktail Masterpiece