Let’s get real: there’s no wrong time of year to drink an old fashioned. June, July, August — even the dog days of summer can’t scare us away from this combination of whiskey (rye or bourbon, depending on your taste), muddled sugar, and Angostura bitters. That said, fall might very well be the best time to sip this classic cocktail. The flavors in play just seem to fit nicely with apple harvest, longer nights, and a fire crackling in the hearth.
Around these parts, we prefer our old fashioneds with a spicy rye kick, but we’ll take them any which way our favorite bartenders mix them up. We love seeing adaptations with walnut bitters, bacon, and other smoky, fall flavors. The joy of this drink is its permutability… as long as you start with a good whiskey.
To make sure your old fashioned whiskey picks are on point, we asked 15 our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to bottles for mixing this iconic drink.
Noble Oak Bourbon
Alli Torres, bartender at Refinery Rooftop in New York City
I’m loving Noble Oak right now. They age it for a year in American White Oak and finish it with sherry staves. They use pressure and heat to mimic the seasons and plant a tree for every bottle. Personally, I love a bit of a spicier old fashioned so matching the sherry notes with Angostura really delivers some great flavor.
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Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-bond 100 proof. I like a rye whiskey and picked this up at the @summertonclub Whisky Festival. In true Whisky Shared style, I opened this at the event and shared it with whisky friends. It's not too spicy on the finish and needs very little water to be enjoyed. It also has a great mouth feel. . . . #whiskyshared #whiskey #whisky #rye #ryewhiskey #ryewhisky #rittenhouserye #bottledinbond #summertonwhiskyclub #summertonwhiskyfestival #100proof
Gabrielle Ricord, bartender at Outpost in Goleta, California
The whiskey I like to put in old fashioned’s is definitely Rittenhouse Rye. It is the star of the show, a touch earthy, nice and spicy, and is delicious with the herbal component of Angostura bitters. I like to use Rittenhouse in many different cocktails, but even with it’s higher proof I love it in a good ol’ old fashioned.
New York Ragtime Rye
Jenghis Manning-Pettit, lead bartender at B&O American Brasserie in Baltimore
My whiskey of choice for an old fashioned is New York Distilling Company’s Ragtime Rye. It’s affordable and has a great balance of smoothness and spice that I really admire in a rye. Muted vanilla and cacao notes border on nutty (specifically hazelnut), but the rye spice brings things back into focus.
With just a little bit of simple syrup and a single dash of aromatic bitters, it’s an amazing and budget-friendly old fashioned mixer.
Evan Williams Bottled in Bond
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A little back porch bourbon. This Evan Williams Bottled in Bond may be a budget friendly bottle, but it’s a fantastic whisky. Rich, sweet, spicy. Delicious . #yummm #evanwilliams #evanwilliamsbourbon #evanwilliamsbib #evanwilliamsbottledinbond #bottledinbond #bottledinbondbourbon #bourbon #whiskey #bourbonwhiskey #bourbongram #instabourbon #instawhiskey #whiskeygram #instadram #itsbourbonnight
Drew Hairston, beverage director at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC
For an old fashioned, I consistently use Evan Williams Bottled in Bond. I think this bottle has the best value and flavor in its price range, and the extra ABV ensures your cocktail won’t end up a watery mess.
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Rodrigo Retamoza, assistant manager at The Living Room at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, California
I like Four Roses Small Batch in an old fashioned. It’s smooth flavor and subtle spice harmonize well with bitters and sugar.
Old Forester Signature 100 Proof
Melissa Carroll, bartender at Fisk & Co. in Chicago
I have always loved Old Forester Signature 100 proof bourbon. The obsession began with my mentor Damian Arms over at JW Marriott Chicago and his “Old Old Fashioned”, a classic bottled for service and shockingly served with lemon instead of orange. The brightness of the citrus against this pleasantly maple forward whiskey stuck with me instantly. It became my new favorite drink, and I had to find a way to make it just how I wanted it. We moved back into using oranges and paired it was a 3 Sheeps Cashmere Hammer Stout Syrup at Fisk & Co in our William Caxton, and those pepper notes of Old Forester Signature 100 just soar over the maltiness of the stout flavoring.
Still obsessed and going to stay obsessed.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
I love Wild Turkey. I think their 81 makes a great Old Fashioned. It packs a lot of flavor and is really smooth. I always have a bottle of Wild Turkey in my home bar line-up.
Journeyman Last Feather Rye
Sarah LM Mengoni, bartender at Double Take in Los Angeles
Journeyman Last Feather Rye Whiskey. An old fashioned highlights its robust spiciness and notes of banana and other fruit perfectly. As an added bonus it’s organic and kosher.
The Burning Chair Bourbon
Douglas da Cruz Jr, bar manager at Nico Osteria in Chicago
Recently I tasted a “new” bourbon which in my opinion is one of a kind. Here it goes: The Burning Chair Bourbon Whiskey. It is a four-year-old bourbon, which is a pretty difficult goal to achieve for small distilleries. The juices come from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee. The barrels are finished in the Prisoner Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels in Napa Valley. It truly has great flavor!
And I also have to mention the bottle and label—it is modern, sexy, and distinct.
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
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Suns out, big guns out. Woodford usually hits my lips on @americanair flights so I don't often get the chance to really enjoy it. Happy to have it today. Under appreciated on my part. Refreshing but still flavorful. Easy drinking but not bland. Totally it's own flavor. Nice bourbon that I should really keep around more often. @woodfordreserve #woodfordreserve #woodfordreservebourbon #kentuckystraightbourbonwhiskey #kentuckywhiskey #kentuckybourbon #bourbonwhiskey #bourbon #whiskey #bourboncocktail #whiskeycocktails
Chris Heinrich, head bartender at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee
I have always, and always will support a Woodford Reserve old fashioned. Perhaps it’s because it was the first, I had ever had, but something about that rich, full mouthfeel lends itself so well to holding up to the dilution in a simple, well-made Old Fashioned.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Travis Sanders, bartender at Pennyroyal Bar in Seattle
Buffalo Trace is still my go-to for a solid, traditional old fashioned. It’s well made at a good price. If I want to take it up a notch, I’ll go Rittenhouse for a high proof rye kick.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Amy Wong, lead bartender at King Tide Fish & Shell in Portland, Oregon
Four Roses Single Barrel. More specifically, I consistently enjoy it with the more common OBSV mash bill but I have enjoyed it with the OBSF mash bill, which lends a minty note so it was kind of like an old fashioned with a hint of julep. The single barrels are higher proof and help balance out the added sugar.
Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Hilary Chadwick, director of food & beverage at Viviane in Beverly Hills, California
I like to keep the old fashioned cocktail as traditional as possible with a great American bourbon that speaks for itself. My personal favorite is Basil Hayden’s, which has a high rye content, providing a beautifully sweet and slightly spicy finish. Paired with a raw sugar cube and a few dashes of bitters, it makes the perfect old fashioned.
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
Oscar Amaya, bar manager and head mixologist at The Rusty Pelican in Miami
Elijah Craig small batch is one of my favorite bourbons to make an old fashioned with. It has a pleasantly woody taste with accents of spice, smoke, and nutmeg with a nose aroma of vanilla bean, sweet fruit, and fresh mint.
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Bought a new flashlight the other day. Sh*t, sorry, stupid autocorrect. *fleshlight . . . . #whisky #whiskey #michters #rye #michtersrye #barrelstrength #drinkup #scotch #bourbon #drinkstagram #liquor #nature_photo #bottle #glassbottle #isthisart #probablynot #justapicture #flashlight #nope #fleshlight
Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty Grill in Carlsbad, California
I prefer Rye over Bourbon in my old fashioned. The spicy character of Michter’s Rye whiskey plays nicely with the sugar, bitters and an orange twist. But if you’re someone that likes a less sweet old fashioned (a touch of sugar), I like Whistle Pig 10yr Rye, and maybe sub a couple of dashes of Fee Brother’s Orange bitters and an orange twist.