Cocktail – Old Fashioned

One of my favourite cocktails is an Old Fashioned. It is such a simple cocktail but there are so many delicious variations to discover. Here is my recipe for a basic Old Fashioned. At the end of the article I will list some of the best ways I have found to play with this recipe and make tasty alternative cocktails.

Time – 10mins


  • Bulleit Bourbon
  • Angostura Bitters
  • A Sugar Cube
  • An Orange
  • A Glace Cherry (optional but tasty)

Step 1 – Sugar and Bitters

Grab your favourite heavy bottomed tumbler. Put in the sugar cube and a couple of dashes of the Angostura Bitters and then wait for a minute or two while the bitters soak into the sugar cube. A quicker method is to use simple syrup but there is something quite nice about the sugar cube slowly changing colour as it absorbs the bitters.

Step 2 – Muddle

After the bitters have soaked into the sugar cube you will need to use a muddler to break up the sugar cube. If you don’t have a muddler a rolling pin or large spoon will also work.

Step 3 – A Little Bourbon

Next, add a little bourbon and gently stir until the sugars has dissolved. The ideal tool for this is a cocktail spoon. A cocktail spoon is normally long and thin with a spiral handle (which you can use to carefully add spirits to cocktails in other recipes by pouring the liquid down the spoon). When stirring the cocktail you should place the back of the spoon against the edge of the glass and hold the spoon handle near the top between your thumb and one or two fingers. You are aiming for a quick smooth stir, lightly holding the spoon as it rotates between your fingers with the back of the spoon remaining against the edge of the glass. This technique does take some time to master but once you have got the hang of it it really speeds up making cocktails and reduces the effort involved. If you do not have a cocktail spoon a standard spoon or a stirrer will work, it might just take a little longer for the sugar to dissolve.

Step 4 – Ice

I like to use one of these Alchemy Crystal Clear Ice Ball Makers. It takes around 48 hours to make two clear ice balls, so you will need to plan your ice in advance. I find that the ice balls store well in a plastic bag or tub in the freezer for a few weeks after you have made them before they start frosting up. I usually try to have at least half a dozen ice balls prepared in the freezer for making cocktails. If you don’t have a large ice maker you can use standard ice cubes, you will need to fill the glass approximately two thirds full with ice. Personally, I prefer the large ice ball because it chills the cocktail for longer without watering it down.

Step 5 – Stir

After you have added the ice ball, gently stir the cocktail for a few seconds.

Step 6 – More Bourbon and Stirring

Add the rest of the bourbon and gently stir the cocktail for around 30 seconds to mix the ingredients together. This might seem like a long time but ensuring that the cocktail is well mixed really does make a difference to the finished drink.

Step 7 – The Orange

You’re on the home straight now. For this step you will need a strip of orange peel approximately an inch wide and two inches long. There are various ways of achieving this but I find that the simplest method (especially after a couple of drinks) is to use a vegetable peeler. Yes, I know it doesn’t look as fancy as some of the other techniques but it is less hazardous than creating elaborate shapes with a paring knife. If you have a better method please let me know in the comments. Once you have your orange peel you need to fold it in half, over the top of the glass, skin side out, and rub it around the rim. This releases some of the oils from the skin which gives the cocktail a wonderful light zesty aroma. Finally, give the orange peel a twist and gently slide it into the glass.

Step 8 – Garnish

This last step is entirely optional but it is something I always like to do – add a glace cherry to the Old Fashioned! I think it makes the cocktail look a little bit more fancy, it adds a little sweetness and it is a tasty treat after you have finished drinking your Old Fashioned.

So there it is, my basic Old Fashioned. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

One of the beauties of an Old Fashioned is that there is an almost infinite number of delicious variations you can make. One simple change is to try different bitters, I like the aromatic bitters by The Bitter Truth. Another great alternative is a Montreal Old Fashioned where the sugar is replace with a dash of maple syrup, it adds a real richness to the cocktail. You can also make a bigger change to the cocktail by switching the main ingredient, the bourbon, for a different whisky or rum. I like the Auchentoshan Bartender’s Malt because it adds a subtle smoky edge to an Old Fashioned. Honestly, the possibilities are endless once you get going. I hope you have a fun journey finding your perfect Old Fashioned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: