Olive Magazine
Easy Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Old fashioned

Published: December 15, 2021 at 1:40 pm
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  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Total time
    • + Cooling
  • Easy
  • Serves 1

Sultry, boozy and perfect for sipping slowly, an old fashioned is a classic whisky cocktail that calls for just four ingredients


Check out our expert tips on how to make the best old fashioned, then explore our recipes for a manhattan, whisky highball and other whisky cocktails. After, read how to elevate your cocktail skills with our best home bar hacks

Our drinks expert, Hannah Guinness, shares her at-home bar tips to help you take your old fashioned to the next level.

What is an old fashioned?

One of the most venerable cocktails, the old fashioned emerged at the beginning of the 19th century, when it was known simply as ‘the whisky cocktail’. The austere purity of the recipe – a balanced blend of whiskey, bitters, sugar and water – was diluted over time by the addition of fruit, liqueurs and other ingredients, so much so that discerning drinkers who wanted the cocktail in its original guise would ask for a whisky cocktail made the old fashioned way.

Old fashioned ingredients

Bourbon or rye whisky are the classic whiskies to use here – use the former for a sweeter, buttery end result, while rye produces a spicier cocktail. We’ve tried and tested the best rye whiskies here.


An old fashioned is classically served in a short tumbler, also called an old fashioned glass. This is best for holding the chunky ice cubes served with the drink.

Bar hacks and garnishes

An old fashioned is traditionally made with a sugar cube but swapping this for sugar syrup (soft light brown sugar works beautifully with dark spirits) shortens the mixing time considerably. Make your own homemade sugar syrup using our step-by-step recipe. Angostura bitters are traditional here, but adding a few orange bitters would add an extra layer of flavour. Finally, an old fashioned might be a classic whisky cocktail but other dark spirits – such as aged dark rum or anejo tequila – work brilliantly here, so feel free to experiment.

Make it a non-alcoholic old fashioned

Swap the whisky for a non-alcoholic dark spirit, like Three Spirit’s Nightcap.

Classic old fashioned cocktail recipe


  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • a few dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3 tbsp bourbon or rye whisky
  • to garnish orange twist


  • STEP 1

    Put the sugar and 100ml water in a pan and heat gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Cool. This will make more than you need but will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

  • STEP 2

    Put 3 tsp of sugar syrup and the bitters in an old fashioned glass and stir until combined. Fill the glass with ice cubes, pour over the bourbon and stir well. Garnish with a twist of orange peel and serve.


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