I have a love/hate relationship with the old fashioned cocktail.
On the one hand, it’s my favorite classic cocktail out there. It’s just the right mix of boozy whisky and sweetness, that lets you know you’re drinking a real cocktail, without the flamboyance of a pretty umbrella (although those have their time and place).
But on the other hand, for as simple of a drink as it is, you can’t order it at 90% of bars and restaurants.
If your bartender tries to put club soda in your old fashioned, run away.
If they try to muddle oranges and/or cherries in your drink, run away.
If they put your drink over standard, melty bar ice, run away (in most scenarios).
In my mind, all of these are old fashioned faux pas.
In this post, I’m going to share with you how to make a great old fashioned cocktail.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are many other variations on this that are fantastic, but there are even more that are very, very wrong.
So this is for the person who wants to be able to make a delicious old fashioned for themselves or guests at their home, with minimal fuss.
Why You Put Big Ice Cubes in Cocktails
First things first, there isn’t much you have to prepare, but if you don’t have some one inch cubes, you’ll want to get some ready.
Why do you need to put large cubes in some cocktails, like the old fashioned?
Because regular ice will melt faster, thus diluting the drink.
An old fashioned is a drink that’s meant to be sipped, and savored, and enjoyed – not chugged.
And if you use regular ice, it’ll melt too quickly and ruin the drink.
So if you don’t already have them, you can pick up a tray for large cubes on Amazon here.
If you want to get really fancy, you can make your own clear ice for added effect – but it’s not needed for a great tasting drink.
And even easier way to do it is to pick up a clear ice ball maker.
Sugar Cubes vs Simple Syrup in Old Fashioned
One big area where you’ll see debate is over the sugar cube vs simple syrup.
Traditionally speaking many of the recipes for an old fashioned that you come across will call for a sugar cube, that you muddle with the bitters.
If you want to create a delicious and presentable old fashioned – do not do this.
I mean sure, you can use it in a pinch, but here’s the deal. No matter what you do, you’ll have a hard time getting that sugar to dissolve.
This is going to leave you with a treasure trove of sugar at the bottom of your drink, and because of that, a drink that not only isn’t very presentable, but one that can be too spirit forward since the sugar didn’t properly dissolve.
Best way around this? Use simple syrup.
What is Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is essentially just sugar syrup, but it’s one of the easiest things for the home bartender to do to up their game.
There are 4 levels of approaching simple syrup, choose the one that is most appropriate for your needs.
- Buy it at the store. It’s like 3-4 bucks and will work great.
- Make your own at home. Recipe on how to do it is here
- Make your own demerara simple syrup at home. Process is the same, it’s just using fancier sugar
- Make your own flavored simple syrups (not applicable for this old fashioned, and we’ll talk about in another post).
Any of those first three options will work great.
But personally I think it’s worth it to make your own demerara sugar. It’s perfect in an old fashioned and adds a little bit more of a molasses flavor, and increased viscosity to your cocktail.
How to Make an Old Fashioned
Ok, so let’s recap:
You’ve got your big ice cubes so that you don’t dilute your drink.
You’ve got simple syrup in one form or another, so that you don’t have a big pile of granulated sugar at the bottom of your drink.
Awesome, you’ve done the hard part.
Now here’s where we dive into exactly how to make the perfect old fashioned.
Again, there are variations on this, but this is the one I serve to all my guests, and is incredibly easy to make.
Old Fashioned Cocktail
- Mixing Glass
- Large Ice Cube
- Hawthorne Strainer
- Vegetable Peeler
- 2 oz Bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace or Knob Creek)
- .5 oz Demerara Simple Syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 dashes Orange Bitters
- 1 Orange (For Garnish)
- Add simple syrup and bitters to mixing glass
- Add bourbon
- Add 2 handfuls of ice and stir until chilled
- Strain over large cube into rocks glass
- Take an orange peel, and express oils over drink. Drop in glass for garnish
Have you tried it? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Want to try something similar, but with a bit more complexity? Try our Smoking Banana cocktail, it’s a rum and mezcal based old fashioned.