It’s Old Fashioned week around the world, which means it’s time to break out the brown spirits and whip up an old fashioned or two this weekend. It’s the perfect cocktail to warm you up on these chilly autumn nights — when it’s getting colder and colder and we’re all in need of a stiff and spicy drink to warm us up.
Uproxx Life has got your back on that front. We’re here for you.
The old fashioned is one of the more versatile cocktails out there due to its devilish simplicity. Back in the day, around 1800, bartenders were mixing spirits with bitters and sweeteners to make them more palatable. Over the course of the 19th century, more and more ingredients started getting added to the mix like absinth, juices, sweet tonics, etc. Think about the Sazerac. It’s basically an old fashioned with absinthe. Anyway, by around 1880, people started ordering their drinks the “old fashioned” way again because things were getting too complicated and muddled. The masses wanted an old fashioned cocktail again. That’s a base spirit, a bitter, a sweetener, and water chilled in a glass. The use of brandy, bourbon, rye, rum, or even gin was purely up to the drinker.
Between 1880 and now, the old fashioned has gone in and out of vogue multiple times. During the 1920s and the 1950s resurgences, whiskeys became one of the more common ingredients with brandy holding on in small pockets. The latest resurgence is due to a TV show set in the 1950s when the old fashioned was a standard afternoon head-clearer. So, yeah, the old fashioned is old, storied, and damn good. A drink doesn’t keep making comebacks over 220 years because it’s bad, that’s for sure.
Do you have a glass, a spoon, some ice, and some bitters, sugar, and dark booze? Good. That’s all you need to make a great old fashioned. Let’s dive into some easy to master old fashioned recipes you can imbibe this week to celebrate all things old fashioned.
JERRY THOMAS’ WHISKEY COCKTAIL
The Jerry Thomas Bartender Guide from 1862 is the seminal recipe book for all great bartenders. It’s not where it all started but it’s certainly where it all started to coalesce into a whole. The Whiskey Cocktail from his book is pretty much exactly what came to be known as an “Old Fashioned.” All the essential ingredients are there — base, sweetener, bitters. So, this is probably the best place to start our old fashioned journey.
The one ripple here is the use of gomme syrup instead of sugar cubes, bar syrup, or another sweetener. Gomme is the smoothest of the bar syrups due to the addition of gum arabic. It’ll make the smoothest cocktails you’ll ever taste and it’ll be hard to go back to the rough cane sugar-based sweeteners after dipping your cocktail palate into the world of gomme. Plus, you should be able to find it at any liquor store for less than ten bucks.
- 3 or 4 dashes of gomme syrup
- 2 dashes of Boker’s Bitters
- 1 wine-glass of whiskey
- 1 lemon rind
- “Fill a Shaker one-third full of fine ice; shake and strain in a fancy wine glass.”
- Build your drink into a shaker — gomme, bitters, whiskey.
- Fill shaker one-third with good ice and shake well.
- Strain into a “fancy wine glass.”
- Spritz the lemon oils over the drink and garnish with the rind.
APPLE CIDER OLD FASHIONED
The cocktail is pretty straightforward if you’re looking to make it home. The only hard-to-get ingredient is the ginger liqueur. Domain de Canton makes a great version and most higher-end liquor stores should carry it. Otherwise, you can make your own by making a ginger syrup and adding it to brandy with some orange and vanilla.
- 1.5 oz. Havana Club 7
- 1 tsp Demerara sugar
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- .5 oz. Ginger Liqueur
- 1.5 oz. Ontario Apple Cider
- Orange rind
- Add demerara sugar, bitters, and Canton to a rocks glass and muddle together.
- Add apple cider, ice, and Havana 7 over the top.
- Gently stir until well combined.
- Spritz and garnish with the orange rind.
RUM OLD FASHIONED
This recipe comes straight from Havana. The addition of sweet and smooth rum is almost too perfect for the old fashioned. The deeply rooted molasses edge with the barrel vanilla and spicy notes work perfectly with the bitters. The addition of honey in place of sugar is another great upgrade. The honey adds a deep freshness to the drink that you just can’t get with processed white sugar.
This is a sweet, spicy, and smooth cocktail that’ll be hard to go back from once you try it.
- 2 oz. of Havana Club 7-Year-Old Rum
- 1 dash of Angostura Bitters
- 1 dash of Orange Bitters
- 1 tsp. of Honey
- Orange rind
- Add honey, bitters, and Rum to a mixing glass.
- Top with ice and stir well.
- Strain into a chilled rocks glass.
- Spritz and garnish with the orange rind.
SPICED TEQUILA OLD FASHIONED
Tequila is the perfect alternative to whiskey when whipping up an old fashioned. There’s such a distinct flavor profile to a great aged tequila that lends itself to a very satisfying cocktail.
The recipe from the tequila masters at Altos Tequila is a great step into deliciousness. Switching out the cane sugar for agave adds a great, subtle sweetness that’s not as harsh as a refined sugar cube. And spicing things up with some chili bitters brings the whole drink to a new level.
- 2 parts Altos Tequila Reposado
- 1/6 part Agave syrup
- 2 dashes of smoked chili bitters
- Grapefruit rind
- Add agave, bitter, and tequila into a mixing glass.
- Fill with ice and stir until well mixed and chilled.
- Strain into a rocks glass and top with fresh ice.
- Spritz grapefruit oils over the glass and drop it in.
DON DRAPER’S OLD FASHIONED
Don Draper’s Old Fashioned is a pretty straightforward mix. While is it kind of a glass build, you’ll still need a pint glass to master this one. However, this is a really easy old fashioned to get a handle on.
The separation of the of the Rye and muddled bitters and sugar is an interesting ripple. And pre-chilling the rye with the soda water makes sense if you’re in a rush. Overall, this is a good place to start if you prefer your old fashioned to be a lot more rye-focused with a sweet bitterness at the end.
- 6 oz. Rye
- 2 oz. Soda Water
- 8 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 2 sugar cubes
- 1 orange wheel
- Fill a pint glass with ice, Rye, and water. Rest.
- Muddle sugar and bitters in two rocks glasses.
- Stir Rye/Water mix and then pour directly into the rocks glasses.
- Add half an orange wheel to each glass.
BRANDY OLD FASHIONED
This is the traditional recipe from up in Wisconsin. The recipe has its roots in the Old Fashioned #2 build. That’s where the fruit is muddled directly into the sugar, creating a much sweeter and, well, fruitier concoction. The addition of Korbel Brandy, in particular, is essential. Making an old fashioned with brandy isn’t anything new — we know we can make an old fashioned cocktail with any base spirit. Still, it’s a great twist.
Korbel is a Sonoma Valley brandy that has a distinctly American vibe to it. It’s made from American sparkling wines and blended with the care you’ll find in the French and German counterparts. The best part is that it’s a lot cheaper than the imported brandies from the old world. And, we have to admit, it makes for a great cocktail. Don’t wait until you’re in Wisconsin to drink one.
- 2 oz. Korbel Brandy
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- 2 orange wheels
- 2 maraschino cherries
- Soda water
- Dash a stemmed rocks glass with bitters.
- Muddle one orange slice (avoid the rind) and one cherry into the sugar cube until it’s dissolved.
- Add Korbel Brandy and stir.
- Top with ice and a splash of soda water.
- Garnish with remaining orange slice and cherry.
ZACH’S OLD FASHIONED
This is a pretty straightforward glass build. The reason I dig it is because you need exactly zero bar equipment to execute it.
The stirring of the sugary bitters into the whiskey does take a good minute or two to accomplish. But it adds an extra layer of depth to the whiskey cocktail with an end result that’s shockingly smooth and complex. Plus, there’s an Amarena Cherry at the end — and all great things should end with an Amarena Cherry. Be warned, this is a very strong, bartender’s concoction — we’re talking a double shot of 100 proof whiskey after all.
- 4 oz. Barrel Strength Rye
- 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 barspoon raw sugar (granulated)
- 1 barspoon soda water
- Orange rind
- Amarena Cherry
- Add sugar, bitters, and water to the bottom of a rocks glass and stir until blended.
- Add Rye to the base and stir with a barspoon until sugar/bitters mix is completely dissolved.
- Fill the glass with ice (I use one large cube) and stir until cocktail rises to the top to of the glass.
- Spritz orange oils over top of cocktail and rub the rind around the rim and body of the glass before dropping in the drink.
- Garnish with an Amarena Cherry.