Here’s how to make the oldest cocktail there is! This Old Fashioned recipe uses the classic ingredients and method for truly timeless drink.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is barely a cocktail recipe at all: just lightly sweetened booze with bitters. But it’s become one of the most famous of all classic drinks! The recipe dates back to the early 1800’s, before the words classic and cocktail were even said next to each other. Everyone has their own spin on an Old Fashioned drink recipe: but we think this one’s pretty perfect. Here are a few tricks to making the best pristine version of this cocktail that lets the whiskey shine.

Old Fashioned ingredients

The Old Fashioned gets its name because it started as literally the cocktail. That’s right: the first cocktail in existence! The definition of the word cocktail was first documented in 1806 in a New York paper The Balance and Columbian Repository, calling it a “concoction of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar,” essentially a recipe for an Old Fashioned. Once more cocktails came along in the 1880’s, they needed a name for that original whiskey cocktail. The “Old Fashioned” was born.

The ingredients in an Old Fashioned include:

  • Bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Sugar cube
  • Water
  • Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
Old Fashioned Ingredients

How to make an Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned recipe 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 afficionado, a whiskey sour is more up your alley.) The classic method for how to make an Old Fashioned is:

  • Shake 4 dashes bitters on 1 sugar cube, then muddle it with ½ teaspoon water. This is the traditional method, though many recipes these days call for simple syrup since it dissolves better. We like 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 whiskey. Bourbon is sweet with hints of vanilla and oak, or use rye whiskey for a spicier finish.
  • Add ice, orange peel, and optional cherry. Add a large ice cube and an orange peel, making sure to squeeze it over the drink to release the oils. If desired, add a cocktail cherry.
Old Fashioned recipe

Use clear ice!

How to make a next level Old Fashioned? Make a batch of clear ice. Clear ice is perfectly clear artisan style ice like you’d see in a fancy bar, instead of cloudy cubes from an ice tray. It not only looks beautiful, but allows you to cut a large square to fill the entire glass. There are two methods for how to make clear ice:

  • Make it with 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 or organic shapes for all your drinks. All you need is 24 hours and a small cooler! To do it, go to How to Make Clear Ice.
  • Use a clear ice maker. With the popularity of home bartending, there are now some great options for clear ice makers. We like this one: ClearlyFrozen Home Clear Ice Maker

Garnishing this Old Fashioned recipe

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: Squeeze it over the drink first, which releases the oils and gives it a strong orange perfume. Then run the orange peel around the rim of the glass to give an even more citrusy first sip.
  • Cocktail cherry: The cherry adds a nuanced sweetness 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.

How to make an Old Fashioned

Variations on the Old Fashioned

And that’s it: how to make a perfect Old Fashioned recipe! Once you’ve made it a few times, you may want to mix it up a bit. Here are Old Fashioned variations we love:

When to serve this Old Fashioned drink recipe

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
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Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Recipe

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


Here’s how to make the oldest cocktail there is! This Old Fashioned recipe uses the classic ingredients and method for truly timeless drink.


  • 1 sugar cube (1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ½ teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 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: Drinks
  • Method: Stirred
  • Cuisine: Cocktails
  • Diet: Vegan

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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