Home Cocktails Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

When it comes to timeless cocktails, the classic Old Fashioned reigns supreme.

This iconic drink is steeped in history and is beloved for its simple yet sophisticated taste.

It doesn’t call for anything complicated. But each ingredient plays a pivotal role in crafting the perfect cocktail.

Old Fashioned Cocktail on the Rocks with Maraschino Cherry and Orange Twist
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At its core, it’s a celebration of sweet and bitter flavors with the warming charm of whiskey.

We can trace its origins back to the early 19th century. Yet the Old Fashioned has stood the test of time.

It’s still captivating cocktail connoisseurs and casual drinkers with its understated elegance and depth of flavor.


The Old Fashioned is dark and a little bitter with just a touch of sweetness. And it was Don Draper’s drink of choice for a reason. 

The ingredient list is short and sweet – just how I like it!

But the flavors blend in perfect harmony. It’s one of those whiskey cocktails you’ll never tire of.

Like Don Draper once said, “Make it simple, but significant.” And boy, did they get that right with this stunning drink.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Simple syrup. Boil equal parts water and sugar until smooth. Let it cool, and it’s ready to go.
  • Angostura bitters. There’s no substitute for this deep spice blend. So be sure to pick some up.
  • Water. Just a dash to mellow those strong flavors.
  • Ice. I think the Old Fashioned tastes best on the rocks, but you can skip this if you prefer.
  • Bourbon (or rye whiskey). Since bourbon is the star of this show, reach for top-shelf brands. I love Bulleit bourbon because it has a mellow richness, and tastes smooth and buttery. Other good brands include Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace. 
  • Orange twist (for garnish). The orange garnish brings life to this cocktail. The aroma makes the drink even more enticing.
  • Maraschino cherry (for garnish). For a pop of color and a gentle hint of fruity sweetness. 
Old Fashioned Cocktail in a Glass with ice

How to Make an Old Fashioned

Here’s a quick rundown on how to throw this cocktail together in a flash: 

1. Prepare simple syrup. Mix one part water with one part sugar and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to cool, and set aside. 

2. Combine mixers. Add Angostura bitters, cooled simple syrup, and water in a whisky glass. Stir until well combined. 

3. Add the booze and ice. Add ice to the glass, and pour in bourbon or rye. Stir for 10-20 seconds until the glass is cool to the touch. 

4. Garnish. Squeeze orange twist into the glass, and place it on top of the ice. Add a Marashino cherry (or two) and enjoy!

Check out the bottom of the post for the full recipe and list of instructions.

Tips for the Best Cocktail 

Check out these simple tips to help you master the subtle art of the Old Fashioned.

While it’s a simple drink, small attention to detail makes a huge difference!

  • Use simple syrup when you can. Classic Old Fashioneds call for a sugar cube, which is fine. But I prefer the smoothness of simple syrup. So make a big batch and store it in the fridge for when you need it. 
  • Try cherry juice for sweetness. If you don’t want to make simple syrup (or use a sugar cube) try a splash of Marashino juice.
  • Skip the water. Water mellows the drink, but it also dilutes it. If you have small ice cubes, I suggest skipping the water as they will melt faster.
  • Use large ice cubes. As mentions above, small ice cubes or crushed ice will dilute the drink fast. So, use large cubes instead as they melt slowly.
  • Squeeze the orange peel. The oils will flavor the drink more than you think. And the added fragrance is insane! It’s a little step that makes a big difference. 
Ice Cold Old Fashioned Cocktail Garnished Cherries and Orange Zest

Should I Use Bourbon or Rye? 

It all comes down to personal preference. The booze takes center stage in this cocktail, so reach for something you enjoy.

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Unsure which liquor you prefer? 

Sweet Old Fashioned – Bourbon is sweeter than rye, with subtle notes of caramel and vanilla. So reach for bourbon if you want a sweet drink.

Dry Old Fashioned – Rye is drier than bourbon with peppery notes of cloves and warm spices. It’s the best choice for people who prefer less sweet cocktails.

Rye and Bourbon both pair just as well in this cocktail. It just all depends on your mood. 

What Is the Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned Cocktails?

Opting for high-quality bourbon is a must for this recipe. 

Most of the flavor in this cocktail comes from the bourbon. So reach for something you would happily drink straight up. 

Having said that, you don’t have to drain your bank account for a good-quality bourbon.

Here are some tasty options that hang out in the middle of the price spectrum.

  • Bulleit
  • Woodford Reserve
  • Four Roses Single Barrel
  • Buffalo Trace
  • Larceny
  • Elijah Craig
  • Michter’s

As I mentioned earlier, I love Bulleit. It’s a little sweet with notes of vanilla and caramel and has a smooth buttery quality.

But you can’t go wrong with any of these choices. 

Old Fashion Cocktail Served With Ice, Garnished With Orange Peel and Cherry

Recipe Variations 

A classic Old Fashioned is great. But there are plenty of ways to change it up.

Let’s call these the New Old Fashioneds:

  • Smoked Old Fashioned. Want something more dark and brooding for those cold winter nights? Grab that smoking gun! Adding real smoke (and then covering) tastes like a warm campfire, and looks so impressive. 
  • Maple Old Fashioned. This is the perfect fall-themed cocktail. Instead of sugar, swap in maple syrup. It adds just as much sweetness with a hint of maple flavor. 
  • Oaxaca Old Fashioned. Are you more of a margarita fan? This version swaps bourbon for tequila and mezcal, and sugar for agave. Perfect for the summer!

More Stunning Cocktails You’ll Love

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Old Fashioned

Course: DrinksCuisine: American


Prep time



When it comes to timeless cocktails, the Old Fashioned reigns supreme. This iconic drink is steeped in history and is beloved for its sophisticated taste.


  • 2 teaspoons simple syrup

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 teaspoon water

  • ice

  • 2 ounces bourbon (or rye whiskey)

  • orange twist (for garnish)

  • maraschino cherry (for garnish)


  • Mix simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and water in a whiskey glass until blended.
  • Fill the glass with ice and pour the bourbon or whiskey. Stir for 10-20 seconds or until thoroughly chilled.
  • Gently squeeze the orange twist over the drink to release its oils, then drop it into the glass. Garnish with a cherry.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy!


  • Maple syrup makes a delicious substitute for simple syrup. Or, for an extra cherry kick, use maraschino cherry juice from the jar instead.
  • Tailor the sweetness to your taste by adding more or less simple syrup.
  • Use large ice cubes, which melt slower, to keep the drink from diluting.
Old Fashioned

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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