5 Spins on a Classic
old fashioned receipe

Few things conjure up a feeling of sophistication more than ordering an Old Fashioned cocktail.  There’s an attention to detail, from the muddled sugar to the essential oils of the orange peel being released into the glass, which most other cocktails lack.  

While a true Old Fashioned is a decadent classic, it can be fun to try some modifications to the original.  Keep reading for 5 Spins on an Old Fashioned Recipe.


The History of the Old Fashioned

An old fashioned as we know it today consists of muddled sugar, bitters, and sometimes soda water, topped with whiskey, citrus peel, and maybe a cocktail cherry.  There have been many iterations of the drink over the years, using different whiskey and even brandy.  

The original mixed drink dates back to the 19th century and was one of the first cocktails.  In fact, when asked for the first time to define the word “cocktail” in 1806, a New York Newspaper gave the recipe for what we know today as an Old Fashioned.

Through the late 19th century, cocktails became increasingly complex, and nostalgic bar-goers started to ask their bartenders for the simpler whiskey cocktail of days gone by.  It became popular to order an “old fashioned” cocktail, using the same recipe that had been described in that New York newspaper in 1806.  

Related: How is Bourbon Made?

It’s not surprising that the center of the American whiskey industry, Louisville Kentucky, would claim the cocktail was invented there.  Legend says that the drink was invented at the Pendennis Club in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, Master Distiller and whiskey advocate.  Pepper frequented New York, particularly the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and was said to have been responsible for making the drink more widely popular throughout the United States.

Whether the story of Colonel Pepper popularizing the drink is true, we know that the drink gained notoriety in the late 1880s, and eventually became Louisville’s official cocktail – ahead of the Mint Julep!  

As Old Fashioned cocktails became more popular, rye became the frequent spirit to add, though according to Louisville bourbon is now the traditional whiskey to use with an Old Fashioned.

 

Making An Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktails are very open to interpretation.  There are many “traditional” ways of making the drink, with small variations.  Some people swear by adding a luxardo cherry, which are similar to a cocktail cherry but have thicker syrup and are very sweet.  Other bartenders will tell you to leave the cherry out altogether.  You’ll also notice that some bars will omit the lemon peel, opting for just orange.  It all comes down to which bar you go to, and your personal preference.

Related: Best Whiskey Cocktails for Summer

If you’re curious on which whiskey to use in an Old Fashioned, I’ve created a list of the 11 Best Bourbons for an Old Fashioned, which also includes a standard recipe for the drink.  You can substitute for another whiskey if that’s your preference – let’s remember that the original Old Fashioned was made with rye, after all.  You could even get really crazy and try a wheat whiskey!

As a baseline, the original Pendennis Club recipe is listed below.

The Pendennis Club Old Fashioned:

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. simple syrup (or ½ lump of sugar)
  • ½ slice orange
  • 1 cherry with stem
  • 1 lemon twist
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon

Directions:

Mix sugar, water and Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass. Drop in a cherry and an orange wedge. Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon. Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, stir and enjoy.

 

 

A Quick Note on Bitters

When making your old fashioned, you’ll need to wet your sugar cube with bitters before you muddle it down.  A good bartender will let you in on a secret:  the muddled paste of sugar and bitters is the most important part of the Old Fashioned!

But what are bitters, exactly?

To give you the Coles Notes version, bitters were originally medicinal herbs infused into alcohol.  They would then be used in tonics to aid in stomach and digestive issues.  By the 1800s, they were being used in cocktails throughout America.  

Related: The 11 Health Benefits of Whiskey

Bitters get added to whiskey drinks in particular to balance with a bittersweet flavor, and enhance the taste.  You only need a few dashes to completely change the flavor profile of a drink.

The most common brand of bitters that you’ll find is Trinidadian Angostura bitters.  These bitters contain tree barks, and plant roots, though the actual recipe is a trade secret.  Some bitters contain orange peel, which will be labelled as “orange bitters.”

Brandy Old Fashioned

Back in the early cocktail days, before and Old Fashioned was called an Old Fashioned, brandy was used instead of whiskey.  Try this recipe to harken back to an older version.

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 slices orange peel
  • 2 cherries with stem
  • 1 splash lemon-lime soda (Sprite or 7-Up)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces brandy

Directions:

Mix sugar, soda and Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass.  Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Break the orange peels over the glass to release the essential oils, and drop them into the glass.  Pour in brandy, fill with ice cubes, stir, and garnish with cherries.  Enjoy.

Hot Old-Fashioned

One of the best ways to enjoy an Old Fashioned is to warm it up a bit for winter.  Enjoy an even warmer version of the Kentucky Hug with this cocktail.

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 slices orange peel
  • 2 cherries with stem
  • 1 splash soda water
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon
  • 2 ounces boiling water

Directions:

Mix sugar, soda and Angostura bitters in an Old Fashioned glass.  Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Break the orange peels over the glass to release the essential oils, and drop them into the glass.  Pour in bourbon, top with boiling water and cherries, stir and enjoy.

Creamsicle Old Fashioned

This recipe mixes vanilla and smoked orange peel for a creamsicle flavor that will keep you coming back for more.  We skip the bitters, and instead add vanilla bean.

Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 slice orange peel
  • 1 vanilla bean split in half
  • 1 tsp vanilla cocktail syrup
  • 1 splash soda water
  • 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon

Directions:

Mix sugar, soda and vanilla bean in an Old Fashioned glass.  Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Use the flame from a match to scorch the orange peel.  Break the orange peels over the glass to release the essential oils, and drop them into the glass.  Pour in bourbon, vanilla syrup, stir in ice, and enjoy.

Chocolate Old Fashioned

We’re definitely straying away from the traditional flavors of an Old Fashioned with this one, but chocolate goes so well with whiskey, cherries, and oranges!  Give this a try for a unique spin when you’re feeling like trying something new.

Ingredients

  • 2 slices orange peel, divided
  • 2 brandied cherries, divided
  • 2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters
  • 2 ounces cacao-infused whiskey

Directions:

Infuse a ¼ cup of cacao nibs in your favorite bottle of (cheap!) whiskey for at least three days.  Buffalo Trace bourbon works very nicely for this recipe.  Mix one brandied cherry, one orange slice, and bitters in an Old Fashioned glass.  Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Pour in cacao-infused whiskey, stir in ice, and garnish with a cherry and orange slice.  Enjoy.

Rosemary Old Fashioned

Rosemary is often used to flavor meats such as lamb and pork, but its distinctive bitter taste and powerful aroma can enhance a bourbon whiskey, too.

 Ingredients

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 1 slice lemon peel
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces Kentucky bourbon

Directions:

Mix sugar cube, lemon peel, and bitters in an Old Fashioned glass.  Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back of a spoon.  Pour in bourbon, stir in ice.  Use the flame from a match to scorch the rosemary, and cover both the rosemary and the drink with a shaker for 10 seconds, allowing the rosemary to infuse into the cocktail.  Enjoy.

Choosing the Best 5 Spins on an Old Fashioned Recipe

These recipes are just the start of the endless variations on the traditional Old Fashioned recipe.  The classic Old Fashioned is a staple, but it can be fun to try out new takes on an old favorite to give it your own flavor. 

Whether you’re sitting down at an old oak bar in a dimly lit speakeasy, or mixing up some cocktails with friends, give these spins a try to find the variation you like best because the only thing better than an Old Fashioned is a new take. on it.

Stay Gold.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *