Ah, the Old Fashioned. It's the ultimate classic cocktail: partly because of its history, partly because of the images we have of Don Draper kicking back with one, and partly because the name itself tells you so. Despite that name, however, there's some confusion as to how to make an Old Fashioned. Should you add a cherry? Are you supposed to muddle something? What is muddling? It seems that everyone has their own Old Fashioned recipe.
You should too. For that reason, we've decided to kick off our Cocktail of the Week series by teaching you how to make an Old Fashioned. The timeless classic that changes with the times. For our version, we've decided to keep it relatively simple: no cherry, no muddling. This makes the drink easy to master and requires few tools, so you can throw one together nearly anywhere. While many Old Fashioned recipes contain a sugar cube, our recipe calls for a small bit of brown sugar instead. This helps us avoid any muddling (which will be covered later in the series) while still adding a subtle sweetness.
What You'll Need
The Old Fashioned is a whiskey cocktail, but can be made with either Rye Whiskey or Bourbon. Our recipe works with both, so the choice is yours to make. Typically, rye is the less expensive option. Bourbon, however, will be more versatile with the first few cocktails in this series.
In addition, you'll also need both Angostura bitters and Orange bitters. Angostura bitters are usually available in the alcohol section of grocery stores. Orange bitters may be a bit harder to find but any specialty store (BevMo, Total Wine...etc) will carry them. Alternatively, Amazon carries a set of both (affiliate link). Finally, you'll need some brown sugar, one lemon, and one orange.
Another reason we've chosen the Old Fashioned as our first cocktail is that the tools needed to make it are inexpensive and useful with a number of other cocktails. We've added Amazon links for each of these, but you can also get them at any specialty store. (Disclosure: Links below are affiliate links. Keeping the lights on at Refining Gentleman).
- Jigger: A jigger makes sure that you add the correct amount of liquor to your drink. They usually cost $5-10.
- Bar Spoon: Bar spoons are long spoons with a shaft that twists all the way down. These also typically cost $5-10.
- Strainer: You'll usually be mixing your cocktail in a glass with ice before transferring it to an empty glass. A strainer allows you to transfer your drink from one glass to the other without also transferring the ice. These cost $10-15.
- Paring Knife: A paring knife help you to easily cut the peel of a fruit to add to your drink. You may already have one of these if you've purchased a kitchen knife set before. Alternatively, you can also use a vegetable peeler for the time being as a way to cut costs. A paring knife usually costs around $10.
- Mixing Glass (Optional, but recommended): A mixing glass is a tall glass that allows you to put all your ingredients together to mix your drink. These typically cost $15-20 so, if you need to cut costs, you can use any large, wide glass for now. Just make sure your strainer fits on top.
- Old Fashioned Glass (Optional, but recommended): While you can use any short, wide glass you'd like, we recommend an Old Fashioned glass. At $10-20, it may seem like a luxury but it's a necessary accessory. An Old Fashioned loses all of its class if you're drinking it out of a red Solo cup. In fact, it goes into negative class. It's negative classy.
How to Make an Old Fashioned
Refining Gentleman's Old Fashioned Recipe
2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
1/4 tsp brown sugar
- Place your Old Fashioned glass in the freezer
- In your mixing glass, add 2oz bourbon or rye whiskey
- Add your Angostura bitters, orange bitters, and brown sugar to your mixing glass. For reference, a "dash" is one good pump.
- Add a handful of ice to your mixing glass
- Stir with your bar spoon until the drink is well mixed.
- Remove your Old Fashioned glass from the freezer
- Put ice in the Old Fashioned glass. Ideally, an Old Fashioned should have one large ice block. If you have an ice tray that makes larger cubes, you can use this. If you have a muffin tin on hand, you can make a perfectly sized ice cube in one of those. Otherwise, regular ice will work just fine.
- Strain your mixture into your Old Fashioned glass.
- Cut a slice of the peel from both your lemon and orange, gently fold them, and add to the drink.
To help you master your craft, here's a good video on how to properly stir with a bar spoon.
Old Fashioned Variations
As we mentioned earlier, there are countless ways to make an Old Fashioned. Once you've spent some time mastering the version we've provided here, you can have some fun and experiment with other recipes. We've provided a few below that you can mess around with.
The Wisconsin Old Fashioned Recipe
Wisconsin loves brandy. While nearly all recipes for the Old Fashioned use either bourbon or rye, Wisconsinites choose to stick with their preferred spirit. Courtesy of Edible Milwaukee:
- 2 oz. Korbel or other light-bodied brandy
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 orange slices
- 2 maraschino cherries
Don Draper Old Fashioned Recipe
If you've ever seen Mad Men, you already know that the Old Fashioned is Don Draper's drink of choice. So, if you'd like to kick back like the man himself, give this version a shot, courtesy of AMC:
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
- ½ tsp sugar dissolved with water and bitters
- 1½ oz of bourbon
- 1 cherry
- 1 orange slice
- 1 lemon wedge
James Bond Old Fashioned Recipe
You probably know that James Bond's go-to drink is a martini. However, in the original novel Thunderball, 007 shows that he also appreciates a well-made Old Fashioned. Courtesy of Flemingsbond.com:
One night this week, give our Old Fashioned recipe a shot. Once you've gone through a test run, invite a friend or your significant other over and make one for them as well.