How to Make a Classic Old Fashioned

by Karin Mosca
old fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Every year, the Old Fashioned features on the list of the most popular cocktails in the world. This iconic apéritif cocktail has even given its name to the glass it’s served in – the Old Fashioned Glass. Read on to find out more about the history of the drink, how to make it, plus some fun facts to impress your friends.

History of the Old Fashioned

Towards the 1860s, complex whiskey-based cocktails with all kinds of ingredients – orange curaçao, absinthe, fruit liqueurs and syrups, etc. – were increasingly fashionable in American bars. There were many variations, but many of them were far too cloying and even nauseating for some people’s tastes. Some enthusiasts began to long for simpler cocktails, and asked the bartenders for an “old fashioned” whiskey cocktail.

The Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky, claims to be the birthplace of the real Old Fashioned. The official recipe was supposedly invented by a club bartender in honour of Colonel James E. Pepper, one of the most important Bourbon distillers of the time, who introduced it to New York. In 2015, the city of Louisville named the Old Fashioned as its official cocktail, although critic David Wonderich claims the drink was known well before 1881.

Old Fashioned Recipe



  1. Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass. Add two drops of Angostura and a dash of soda on top.
  2. Muddle the sugar cube with the muddler until it has dissolved.
  3. Fill the glass with ice and pour in the Bourbon. Stir well with a bar spoon.
  4. Garnish with a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry.

Old Fashioned Variations

  • If you don’t have Bourbon, you can also use Rye Whiskey or Scotch Whisky.
  • Instead of an orange slice, you can also use a lemon slice for a slightly stronger flavour.
  • If you want to give your cocktail a fruitier touch, you can opt for a blood orange soda. For a sweeter flavour, you can add some blended strawberries.

Fun Facts About The Old Fashioned

  • Its full name is Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.
  • British writer Kingsley Amis called it “the only rival cocktail to the Martini and its variants.”
  • It is the favourite cocktail of Don Draper, star of the TV series Mad Men.
  • It is also said to have been the favourite drink of two US presidents, Roosevelt and Truman.
  • It is one of the six ‘basic drinks’ mentioned by David A. Embury in his book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948).


So, know that you know a little more about the Old Fashioned, all that’s left to do is get a good bottle of Bourbon or Whisky, and have fun making some awesome cocktails!

Translated by Chelsea Cummings from Karin Mosca’s original Italian article: Old Fashioned, un cocktail alla vecchia maniera.

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