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Bourbon Old Fashioned

A Bourbon Old Fashioned is one of the most classic of classic cocktails. Follow our easy recipe to craft an Old Fashioned at home in just five minutes.

Old Fashioned Being Crafted

Some cocktails like Cuban Daiquiris hail from exotic destinations while others feature eclectic ingredients like cachaça in Brazilian Caipirinhas. The Old Fashioned doesn’t fit into either of these categories.

Living up to its name, this classic cocktail is the opposite of new and trendy. Despite its stodginess, the Old Fashioned ranks as one of the most popular cocktail at bars and lounges in the USA and beyond.

This iconic status can’t be overstated when you consider that most bartenders serve the Old Fashioned in an old fashioned glass (think a lowball or ‘rocks’ glass.) Yes, the Old Fashioned is both a cocktail and cocktail barware.

Click here to buy a pair of Riedel old fashioned glasses on Amazon.

History of the Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned with Ice Cube
The Old Fashioned’s history isn’t a mystery if you read Robert Simonson’s The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore.

The Old Fashioned is a classic American cocktail that dates back to the 19th century. While Louisville claims the drink as its own, the exact origin is as fuzzy as multiple Old Fashioned cocktails make us feel. Some historians link the drink to the days of the American Civil War though others go back further.

While numerous cocktails have come and gone over the past two centuries, the Old Fashioned has retained its relevance over the years. A Hollywood favorite, the drink hit its pop cultural apex as Don Draper’s preferred cocktail in the TV show Mad Men.

Old Fashioned with Ingredients and Jigger
Crafting an Old Fashioned with bourbon is easy to do at home.

Our history with the Old Fashioned may have started while watching Mad Men but it solidified when we toured the Buffalo Trace distillery during our 2016 US road trip. That visit validated our appreciation for the premium Kentucky bourbon and motivated us to buy a bottle once we moved to Lisbon.

Before long, we were experimenting with Buffalo Trace recipes and crafting drinks at home with the Kentucky distilled liquor.

Bourbon Old Fashioned Ingredients

Old Fashioned Mise en Place
Besides water and ice, these are the only ingredients we need to craft a Bourbon Old Fashioned at home.

As lazy mixologists, we love that we can count the ingredients in a Bourbon Old Fashioned on one hand. These ingredients include a sugar cube, bourbon, bitters and orange peel as well as water (both room temperature and frozen).

We’re partial to jumbo sized ice cubes. Big chunky blocks displace more water, cooling the drink with every sip. They also take longer to melt and, let’s face it, they look as cool as Cary Grant in a railroad lounge car.

Click here to buy a jumbo ice tray from Amazon.

Bourbon and Bitters
Bourbon and bitters are this drink’s two alcoholic ingredients. Our recipe includes Buffalo Trace bourbon and Angostura bitters.

As noted above, Buffalo Trace is our preferred bourbon. With smooth flavors and hints of caramel and vanilla, the moderately priced Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is a great bourbon choice for an Old Fashioned recipe.

Adding Angostura bitters provides a spicy flavor with a kick. Not only does the herbaceous concoction contain more than 40 ingredients, but it also has a 44.7% ABV.

How To Make a Bourbon Old Fashioned at Home

Pouring Bitters
A little bit of Angostura bitters goes a long way. Our recipe just requires two dashes.

Despite its sophisticated flavors, the Old Fashioned is one of the easiest cocktails to craft at home. The drink only has a few ingredients and doesn’t require any special equipment except a jigger, muddler (or, if so desired, a mortar and pestle) and a spoon.

Discover 10 necessary bar tools for lazy mixologists.

Muddling Old Fashioned in Glass
We like to use a wooden muddler to muddle our cocktails.

Muddling is a key step in our recipe. It’s also the most fun step as this is when the aromas start to drift out of the glass.

We like to spread the muddled sugar around the glass. Doing this primes the glass and distributes the flavor.

Ice Cube in Glass
This jumbo ice cube required two hands to handle. It was that big.

We mentioned that we like to use jumbo ice cubes and we weren’t kidding. We even bought a special jumbo ice cube tray for cocktails like the Old Fashioned.

We’re not going to lie – jumbo ice cube trays are relatively pricey but there’s nothing like popping out a giant cube and plopping it into a rocks glass.

Jigger of Bourbon for Old Fashioned
We measure our bourbon with a jigger. You can use a measuring cup if you don’t have a jigger.

Since Bourbon is the most important ingredient in a Bourbon Old Fashioned, this is not an ingredient to scrimp on. Instead, find your favorite bourbon and use it in this drink. We use Buffalo Trace. For us, this is the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned recipe.

If you don’t have access to Buffalo Trace where you live, we recommend using Four Roses, Makers Mark, Woodford Reserve or any other quality bourbon.

Expressing Old Fashioned with Orange Peel
Expressing the orange peel is a little step that makes a big difference.

After gently stirring the cocktail, the last step is to express the glass with orange peel before dropping the garnish into the glass. Expressing coats the rim with a light layer of orange oil that tempts the nose and tickles the taste buds.

Old Fashioned Variations

Old Fashioned on Lisbon Strete
We drank this classic Bourbon Old Fashioned in Lisbon.

We adore the simplicity of the classic Bourbon Old Fashioned recipe. However, we understand if you want to get creative by experimenting with the drink’s ingredients. Here are some ideas to pique your creativity:

  • Replace the bourbon with rye whiskey, tequila or rum. If you use brandy, then you’re crafting a Brandy Old Fashioned.
  • Replace the water with club soda for a bit of fizz.
  • Replace the sugar cube with a different sweetener. Options include brown sugar, raw sugar and simple syrup.
  • Garnish your Bourbon Old Fashioned with a maraschino cherry (or two) instead of or in addition to an orange peel slice. We recommend Italian Luxardo cherries produced in the Veneto in Padua – half way between Verona and Venice.

Order a jar of Luxardo cherries from Amazon if you don’t already have a jar in your pantry.

Bourbon Old Fashioned Recipe

Daryl Drinks Old Fashioned
Daryl liked drinking this Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned. He liked it a lot.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll be like us and fall in love with our classic Old Fashioned recipe. It’s both an oldie and a goodie.

Old Fashioned Being Crafted

Bourbon Old Fashioned

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This most classic of classic cocktails has just four ingredients plus water and ice. You can craft one at home in just five minutes.


  • 2 ounces Bourbon
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 splash water
  • 1 large ice cub
  • orange peel


    1. Drop sugar cube into an old fashioned glass.
    2. Add dashes of bitters and water and then muddle until the sugar is fully dissolved.
    3. Place the ice cube in the glass.
    4. Pour the bourbon into the glass.
    5. Gently stir.
    6. Express the glass with an orange peel slice before adding it as garnish.


  • You can garnish this cocktail with a maraschino cherry instead of orange peel.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 146Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 0g

Nutrition Disclosure: We used an online calculator to calculate this information. Though has attempted to secure accurate data, these nutritional figures are estimates.

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.


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