Skep's Place


In Search of the Perfect Old Fashioned

Like the name implies, the Old Fashioned has roots that go further back than I'm qualified to comment on. In its most basic form, it's nothing more than whiskey, bitters, and sugar. Of course, it could be said that this is too simple—even for me—and I think popular opinion is inclined to agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately, this also means that there's no "standard" way to make an Old Fashioned; and with so many recipes around, it's hard to know where to even start.

This was my dilemma. I love an Old Fashioned; if I could only drink a single cocktail for the rest of my life, it might be this one. But dang if I just couldn't get the recipe to taste anything like how you'd get it at an actual bar. For most cocktails, I'll find a recipe that looks decent, toss some ingredients together, say "well that was pretty good", and call it a day. But the Old Fashioned deserved better. So I experimented. And this page is the result of what I found. I'll be breaking down each component of the Old Fashioned into its own category to go into each in a little bit more depth. Recipe at the end.

an Old Fashioned cocktail

Old Fashioned


The whiskey makes up about 95% of the drink, so it's important to put some thought into it. Technically, you can use whatever the heck whiskey you want. I've even seen a recipe using scotch. It was fine, but scotch is just so dang heavenly on its own that why would you ever mix it with anything.

More commonly, you're either going to opt for a rye or bourbon. Of the two, I'm going bourbon, every time. I can't say exactly why, but I have found very few cocktails where rye works for me; I feel like bourbon tends to have a slightly sweeter flavor which compliments any mixers much more nicely.

Also, do yourself a favor and get a bottle of something decent. You don't need to break the bank here, but I have found that a slightly more expensive bottle pays huge dividends in quality. As a vague reference, see what a standard 750ml bottle of Jim Beam costs at your location, and then aim about $10 higher. As of this writing, my preferred bourbon is from a smaller brand called Redemption.


To my knowledge, there's basically two options here:

  1. Angostura
  2. Make them yourself

Of course, laziness is the name of the game here, so we will not be making bitters ourselves. Heck with that.


For this, you've got to go with making your own simple syrup. I know what I just said about laziness, but this has "simple" in the name so we'll allow it. It's dead easy. Boil a cup of water, then take it off the heat and toss in a cup of sugar. Stir it, let it cool, pour it in a jar and keep in your fridge for a month. Done, you're set.

Some versions of the recipe will say to use a sugar cube and a spoonful or two of water and mix it up in the glass, but I can never get the sugar to dissolve the whole way so I'd skip this. You should always have simple syrup ready to go anyway (and I do mean always. This is your life now).

You don't want to go heavy on the sugar in this drink, so generally you add it in spoonfuls. My recipe will assume you have a bar spoon, which tends to be on the smaller side. If all you have is the silverware you use for eating soup, you might want to half the amount.


Although not strictly traditional, the modern Old Fashioned is rarely seen without some form of maraschino cherry and/or orange slice. Get both. If you have an Aldi in your neighbood, do not use their maraschino cherries. Just trust me on this.

And now, our recipe:

Old Fashioned

  1. In an empty rocks glass, add 2 shakes of Angostura, 2 spoonfuls of simple syrup, one maraschino cherry, and half an orange slice.
  2. Muddle. Discard the orange slice when finished.
  3. Add ice.
  4. Add 2 ounces of bourbon. Stir gently.
  5. Garnish with the other half of the orange slice.

The Old Fashioned will preserve a lot of that whiskey flavor, but will knock the edge off of it a bit and add a fruity touch. Honestly, you can't ask for any better.