Old Fashioned – Classic Recipe & History

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Old Fashioned Cocktail

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






Total time



Learn how to make the Classic Old Fashioned.


  • 3 dashes 3 dashes Angostura Bitters

  • 1/2 oz 15 ml Simple Syrup

  • 2 oz 60 ml Bourbon


  • Technique: Simple Stir
  • Combine all ingredients in the mixing glass.
  • Add ice to the mixing glass.
  • Stir the ingredients for 10 – 15 seconds. Try to avoid over-diluting the drink.
  • Strain into a glass with ice.
  • Garnish:
  • Orange peel


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The History Of The Old Fashioned.

The Old Fashioned is an outstanding cocktail. The post-prohibition world’s best attempt at making a classic Whiskey Cocktail with what was still available after prohibition had killed off so many ingredients and techniques. Before people started calling this an Old Fashioned, it was just a Whiskey Cocktail. Prohibition brought about a massive paradigm shift in the way cocktails were made. Before the ratification of the 18th amendment and the start of prohibition, lightly flavored, high-quality spirits were popular among many drinkers. You can identify these vintage-style American cocktails by a couple of ounces of a base spirit lightly flavored with no more than 2 or 3 dashes of other flavorful ingredients and just enough sweetness to cut the spirit’s burn. With the start of prohibition in 1917, the quality of most liquor greatly diminished and high-quality spirits were priced out of most people’s range, and most trained bartenders left the profession and got jobs that were not illicit. Suddenly over night, there was a loss of quality products and knowledge. The cocktails that gained in popularity were the highball and sour style cocktails. Not to say they didn’t exist before this but prohibition had made them more popular. Highballs and sours were slightly easier to make and had more significant amounts of intensely flavored ingredients that helped mask the taste of poor quality spirits. The epitome of this is the tiki drink, which was created during prohibition and saw the first tiki bar open in Hollywood, CA, in 1933, immediately once prohibition ended. If an older individual wanted to order a whiskey cocktail like they remembered having before prohibition, they would need to ask for a whiskey cocktail made in the old fashion. Keep in mind that prohibition lasted for 16 years; a person turning 21 in 1917 was now 37. An entire drinking generation had grown up not having access to this kind of cocktail. If you are curious to learn more about the predecessor to this cocktail, then I would check out the Whiskey Cocktail

What Does The Old Fashioned Taste Like?

The Bourbon’s oak and caramel flavors are still the most forward flavors, but the Angostura bitters provide a dark, heavy, spicy, bark, earthy flavor. The simple syrup is just enough to cut the sharpness of the bourbon, but not to make this a sweet drink.

Using The Right Bourbon In An Old Fashioned.

The most essential ingredient in an Old Fashioned is the bourbon you use. The Bitters are crucial too, but the simple syrup and bitters are still subtle enough to add flavor to the bourbon rather than overpower the drink. You also don’t want to pick a bourbon that is too mellow or one that is too strong. The bitters will overwhelm you if it’s too smooth, and you lose the bourbon taste. If it’s too sharp, you’re trying to slowly sip and enjoy a bourbon not meant to be consumed slowly and thoroughly. A sharper spirit like that would be better suited for other cocktails with other much more assertive flavors.

Recipe Resources

Tools Used:

Download the free Vintage American Cocktail app.

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