Old Fashioned Week: The Traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Old Fashioned Week: The Traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Old Fashioned Week: The Traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

We’ve been on something of an old fashioned kick recently. As we’ve mentioned before, while we tend to think nowadays of the old fashioned as a whiskey drink, it doesn’t have to be. Old fashioneds are the original mixed drink, from the time when the standard cocktail recipe was sugar, bitters, and water with whatever spirit you liked best or found nearest to hand. After a while, new-fangled ‘fancy cocktails’ (that is, drinks in which multiple liquors are combined) started to take take over; but occasionally someone would order their drink ‘the old fashioned way,’ and thus the old fashioned got its name. Somewhere further down the road–just how is unclear–the name became attached to just one variant, involving whiskey and Angostura bitters. It’s a pity, because the old fashioned pattern is a simple way to make a satisfying cocktail, with endless options, with just one bottle of liquor needed.

We’ve been experimenting with a bunch of old fashioned recipes recently, a handful of which we’ll share with you over the course of the week. We’ll start with what has become the standard.

Cocktail Recipe: the traditional Old Fashioned

There’s something of a generational divide over one specific of the traditional recipe, muddled fruit. The iconic old fashioned involves muddling an orange slice and a cherry with the sugar; most of us, when we think of an old fashioned, think of it that way. During the recent cocktail revival, though, it’s been pointed out that fruit is not one of the ingredient categories of the original old fashioned; a pure old fashioned includes a spirit, sugar, bitters, and water, and only those four things. To them, the orange and cherry are a picture of the old fashioneds sad decline during the cocktail’s dark period. We’re agnostic on the question. It’s true that without cherry and orange is probably more accurate, and is certainly sufficient. But sometimes you just feel like indulging in the cliche; plus, cherries and oranges are delicious. Please, though, use a genuine Luxardo cherry or the equivalent, not one of those bright red ones you find in the ice cream aisle.


  • The spirit: 2 oz rye whiskey
  • The bitter: 2 generous dashes of Angostura bitters
  • The sugar: 1 tsp white sugar
  • The water: ice
  • The optional and controversial but sometimes too iconic too pass up addition: an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.


  • Combine sugar and bitters in the bottom of an old fashioned glass and mix until the sugar is well-saturated.
  • (Iconic Style: add the orange slice and maraschino cherry and muddle.)
  • Fill glass with ice, and then pour in the whiskey.
  • Stir gently to mix well.

Roberts & June