Check out our expert tips on how to make the best old fashioned, then explore our recipes for a manhattan, whisky highball, sazerac 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.

Take your skills to the next level with this handy cocktail kit from the olive shop. Completed with easy-to-use cobbler shaker, double jigger, fine mesh strainer and bar spoon, it has everything you need to make next-level drinks at home. Buy here.

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.


Hannah Guinness olive magazine portrait
Hannah GuinnessSenior sub editor and drinks writer

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