The How To Series: The Old Fashioned

It’s time to learn to make another classic cocktail.  This one is even easier than the Martini– other than a muddler, you’ve  probably got all of the ingredients at home for this one already.  You might not even need a muddler if you want to be creative.

No. Your drink is not a fruit salad.

Let’s start with the most important thing: An Old Fashioned is not a fruit salad.  These days when you order one at that fancy bar you like to go to, it has a lemon twist, an orange slice, a cherry, maybe some pineapple, papaya, guava, passion fruit… I’m getting carried away.  A lot of the time some of these fruits are muddled in as well, giving you what might be a tasty whiskey drink but not an Old Fashioned, especially if it has soda water in it.

The Old Fashioned is a really old cocktail.  Not the oldest surviving one that is commonly made (which is probably the Sazerac), but close.  It dates back to some time in the 1880s, but probably goes further back than that (According to Esquire, 1806.  Wow!).  It follows the official original definition of a cocktail, or “bittered sling,” which is sugar, bitters, a spirit and water.

Over the years it has evolved into a drink almost unrecognizable from the elegant original version, but I am here to present to you the correct way to make an Old Fashioned.  And it’s easier than you think.  And tastes better.

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The Old Fashioned


  • rocks glass
  • muddler (or something else…see below)
  • vegetable peeler
  • spoon


  • Whiskey (I usually use Buffalo Trace or Bulleit Bourbon, but any decent American whiskey works)
  • An orange
  • A sugar cube (or a sugar packet, or a teaspoon of sugar)
  • Angostura bitters
  • Water
  • Ice
  1. Put sugar in glass
  2. Add three dashes bitters
  3. Peel one piece of orange zest, drop in glass
  4. Add a splash of water, just enough to begin dissolving the sugar
  5. Muddle the orange peel.  What you are trying to do is express the orange oil in the rind, so rather than mashing it just press the muddler into every part of the orange peel until is it all smushed and the oil is expressed.  If you don’t have a muddler, you can use a wooden spoon or something firm and strong.  Be creative.
  6. Add 2 oz of whiskey
  7. Stir until mixed
  8. Add ice
  9. Drink
  10. Repeat process
Yes, please.

That’s it.  Seriously.  It is a really easy drink to make, and delicious.  Accept no substitutes.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to drink your drinks.  No, that’s a lie, I’m definitely going to tell you how to drink, but if you choose to ignore me, there is a variation of the fruit salad variety old fashioned, a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned that I just read about on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s excellent cocktail blog.  If you want to make it that way, I’d check it out.  Then come back and drink one proper.

Tell me how I'm wrong.