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The bourbon Old Fashioned is a smooth, spirit-forward sipper that’s one of the oldest cocktails in history! This classic is here to stay.

Bourbon Old Fashioned
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If you’re a bourbon fan, you’ve got to try it in one the oldest cocktails there is: the Old Fashioned! This classic blend of spirits, sugar, water, bitters, and a spritz of orange is truly sophisticated and sublime. The bourbon Old Fashioned lets that bourbon shine, gussied up with just enough to accentuate its classic vanilla and oak flavor notes. Here’s how to make this classic recipe and a few tips for how to make a stand-out version at home.

Bourbon Old Fashioned ingredients

The Old Fashioned cocktail is the first cocktail in history and over two centuries old. The definition of the word cocktail was first documented in 1806 in a New York paper, which called it a “concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar”—essentially a recipe for an Old Fashioned! When more cocktails came along in the 1880’s, they needed a name for that original cocktail and the “Old Fashioned” was born.

The classic drink can be made with any type of whiskey, but the bourbon spin uses bourbon. The Old Fashioned ingredients are:

  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Sugar cube
  • Water
  • Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
Four roses small batch

Best bourbon for Old Fashioned

Most bourbons have a characteristic sweetness, which makes for a highly sippable drink in the spirit-forward Old Fashioned. Use your favorite type: you can go with a higher-end craft or single-barrel bourbon, but we recommend a mid-range blended bourbon. Anything in the $25 to $35 range for a 750ml bottle is considered mid-range, but you can go as high end as you like! Some brands we’d recommend are:

  • $: Elijah Craig Small Batch
  • $$: Four Roses Small Batch or Woodford Reserve
  • $$$: Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

How to make a bourbon Old Fashioned

There are lots of opinions on how to make the best bourbon Old Fashioned. The way we like it is the classic method, using a sugar cube and muddling it right in the glass. The classic method for how to make an Old Fashioned is:

  • Shake 4 dashes bitters on 1 sugar cube, then muddle with ½ teaspoon water. This is the traditional method, though you can also use simple syrup if you like (1 ½ teaspoons). We prefer the nuanced sweetness of the sugar cube best: it really lets the whiskey shine. Don’t worry if it doesn’t dissolve all the way.
  • Add 2 ounces bourbon.
  • Garnish with clear ice, orange peel, and cocktail cherry. Add a large ice cube and an orange peel, making sure to squeeze it over the drink to release the oils. Add a cocktail cherry if you like!
Bourbon Old Fashioned

Clear ice makes the drink

An Old Fashioned isn’t complete without a large chunk of clear ice, in our opinion! Clear ice is crystal clear instead of cloudy like standard ice, and it can be cut into large organic shapes that fill the cocktail glass. There are two simple ways to make clear ice for all your home cocktails:

  • Make it using a small cooler. You can make a batch that will last for many drinks and store it in the freezer, then cut it into large cubes for all your drinks. All you need is 24 hours and a small cooler! To do it, go to our tutorial, How to Make Clear Ice.
  • Use a purchased clear ice tray. With the popularity of home bartending, there are now some great options for clear ice trays. We like this one: ClearlyFrozen Home Clear Ice Maker.
Bourbon Old Fashioned

More bourbon cocktails

The bourbon Old Fashioned is one of our top ways to enjoy a good bourbon whiskey. The drink is perfect for fall, winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or anytime. But there are several more we enjoy, from boozy to balanced mixed drinks and fruity sours. Here are a few of our top bourbon cocktails:

This bourbon Old Fashioned recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Bourbon Old Fashioned

Bourbon Old Fashioned

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x


The bourbon Old Fashioned is a smooth, spirit-forward sipper that’s one of the oldest cocktails in history! This classic is here to stay.


  • 1 sugar cube (1 ½ teaspoons simple syrup)
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ½ teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon
  • Orange peel
  • Cocktail cherry, for garnish (optional)
  • Large clear ice cube, for serving


  1. Place the sugar cube in a lowball glass and add the bitters. Add the water and mash and swirl it with a muddler or wooden spoon until the sugar is mostly dissolved.
  2. Add the whiskey and swirl to combine. Add a large ice cube.
  3. Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of the orange peel. Squeeze the orange peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass. If desired, garnish with a cocktail cherry for additional sweetness.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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