Here’s the oldest cocktail there is, the Old Fashioned! The classic method uses a sugar cube, bitters, and bourbon whiskey for a truly timeless drink.

Old Fashioned cocktail

The Old Fashioned is barely a cocktail at all: just lightly sweetened booze seasoned with bitters. But it’s become one of the most famous cocktails there is: possibly because it’s the oldest. This baby dates back to the early 1800’s, before the words classic and cocktail were even said next to each other. The recipe is pretty standard, but everyone has their own spin. Here’s how to make a classic bourbon Old Fashioned cocktail that lets the whiskey shine.

What’s in an Old Fashioned?

The Old Fashioned gets its name because it started as literally the cocktail. The first cocktail in existence! It was first documented in the early 1800’s by a New York paper. Once more cocktails started coming along in the 1860’s, they needed a name for that original whiskey cocktail. The “Old Fashioned” was born.

The Old Fashioned is a classic alcoholic drink on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. This means that there’s an “official” definition of the drink, which is:

  • Bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sugar cube
  • Water
  • Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel and cocktail cherry garnish
Old Fashioned

How to make an Old Fashioned

It’s easy to make an Old Fashioned: it is perhaps one of the easiest great cocktails there is! It’s almost 100% whiskey, so you’ve got to love the stuff to drink this one. (If you’re not a whiskey fan, head straight to our whiskey sour: it’s the perfect intro to bourbon.) Here we’ve used the classic method for our bourbon Old Fashioned, which is:

  • Shake the bitters on a sugar cube, then muddle it with water. This is the traditional method, though many recipes these days call for simple syrup since it dissolves better. We found we liked 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 the whiskey. Bourbon is sweet and smoky, so we prefer it to rye whiskey. But you can use either!
  • Add ice, orange peel, and optional cherry. Add ice and an orange peel (make sure to squeeze it over the drink to release the oils). If desired, add a cocktail cherry. More about the garnish…
How to make an Old Fashioned

Garnishing an Old Fashioned

Both the orange peel and cocktail cherry are listed as the garnish in the official IBA definition of an Old Fashioned. Here are a few notes on the garnish:

  • Orange peel: You’ll want to squeeze it over the drink first, which releases the oils and gives it a strong orange perfume. To amp it up a notch, run the orange peel around the rim of the glass. This gives an even more citrus-y first sip.
  • Cocktail cherry: The cherry adds a noticeable sweeteness to this cocktail. Determine if you’d like your Old Fashioned on the sweeter side.
  • Lemon peel: A lemon peel can also be an optional garnish for an Old Fashioned, along with the orange peel.

Increase the bitters if you’d like

When you soak the sugar cube with Angostura bitters, use 4 good dashes of the bitters: not just drops! It’s essential to the nuanced flavor of the Old Fashioned. If you love the flavor of bitters (which we do!), you can add a bit more.

Old Fashioned Cocktail

A muddler to use (and what you can substitute)

If you’re into cocktails like we are, you’ll want to get yourself a muddler! A muddler is a tool used to mash (or “muddle”) herbs and fruits to use them in drinks. In an Old Fashioned, you need to muddle the sugar cube so that it dissolves. Here’s the Cocktail Muddler we use! An unfinished wooden muddler is recommended so that no artificial flavors flake off into your drink.

Don’t have a cocktail muddler? No problem. Use a wooden spoon instead!

Use clear ice to take it over the top

If you want to take your bourbon Old Fashioned over the top, make up a batch of our clear ice. You’ll need to think 24 hours in advance, but you can make a batch that will last for many drinks and store it in the freezer. All you need is 24 hours and a small cooler! It makes perfectly clear artisan style ice like you’d see in a fancy bar. To do it, go to How to Make Clear Ice.

Bourbon Old Fashioned

Variations on the Old Fashioned

Tired of the same old? Here are a few ways to mix up an Old Fashioned:

When to serve an Old Fashioned cocktail

The Old Fashioned cocktail is classic and whiskey forward; it’s perfect for sipping as a:

  • Happy hour drink
  • Dinner party drink
  • Late night drinks drink
  • Guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
  • Birthday celebration drink (Happy Birthday, Megan!)
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Old Fashioned

Classic Old Fashioned

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


Here’s the oldest cocktail there is, the Old Fashioned! The classic method uses a sugar cube, bitters, and bourbon whiskey for a truly timeless drink.


  • 1 sugar cube (1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ½ teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon whiskey
  • Orange peel for garnish
  • Cocktail cherry for garnish (optional)


  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 bourbon 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: Drinks
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Old Fashioned, Bourbon Old Fashioned

More whiskey cocktails

We’ve got lots of great whiskey cocktails and bourbon cocktails for you to choose from! Here are our favorites:

  • Favorite Whiskey Sour Perfectly balanced and so easy to make! Or add a foam topping to make it a Boston Sour.
  • Whiskey Smash A tangy and refreshing whiskey drink with lemon juice and mint — like a citrus spin on the Mint Julep.
  • Boulevardier Cocktail A stunning classic cocktail! This easy three ingredient drink an the improvement on the Negroni, swapping gin for warm whiskey.
  • Sazerac The official cocktail of New Orleans! Cognac, whiskey and absinthe make up this famous drink. Or try La Louisiane, an even better spin on this classic.
  • Toronto Cocktail Combines the depth and warmth of whiskey with the intrigue of herbal Fernet-Branca liqueur.
  • Manhattan Cocktail Add style to your evening with this easy classic whiskey cocktail made with just three ingredients.
  • Alabama Slammer A retro highball cocktail full of fruity flavor.
  • Penicillin This tasty modern classic stars Scotch, honey, lemon and ginger.
  • Vieux Carre Strong and sippable, it features whiskey, Cognac and vermouth.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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