Classic Old Fashioned

A staple on cocktail menus ever since it was concocted in the early 19th century, the old fashioned is one of the easiest cocktails to learn how to make.

Southern Living Old Fashioned

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Active Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins

Once you master the classic Old Fashioned cocktail, feel free to start tweaking it to your liking: Add a splash of lemon-lime soda, muddle in orange slices and cherries, or swap out the bourbon for brandy for some fun variations on the standard old fashioned.

What Is An Old Fashioned?

Early mixology books dating back to the mid-1800s, such as Haney's Steward and Bar-Keeper's Manual , all feature a whiskey cocktail made of the following ingredients: "Three or four dashes of gum syrup; two dashes of bitters; one wine glass of whisky; one small lump of ice; one piece of lemon peel. Stir with a spoon."

Fast forward to today, and these four ingredients are the only ones you'll need to make one of the oldest cocktails from scratch: an old fashioned.

Whether you choose to use bourbon (for a mellow cocktail) or rye (for a spicier one), the added fruit, sweet, and bitters work to enhance the flavor and texture of your whiskey of choice.

What's an Old Fashioned Made Of?

An old fashioned is one of the easiest cocktails to make with ingredients already on your bar cart . All you'll need to make this classic whiskey cocktail is:

  • bourbon
  • bitters
  • sugar
  • a citrus peel for garnish
Southern Living Old Fashioned ingredients

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

All out of simple syrup ? You can easily swap it out for a single sugar cube. Just muddle the cube with bitters before adding in the whiskey. Fill the lowball glass with ice, and gently stir to combine.

What's the Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned?

Nothing screams Southern quite like an old fashioned cocktail. Made with bourbon, this whiskey drink is one of the South's quintessential cocktails enjoyed at a snazzy craft cocktail bar or during a quiet night on the porch.

Golden-brown, sweet, and sometimes smoky, this Kentucky-born spirit comes to life in an old fashioned. But don't pick the most expensive bourbon in your collection—that's best savored neat or on the rocks. Instead, choose a budget-friendly option that can provide a solid foundation to your cocktail like Jim Beam or Bulleit Bourbon.

How To Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail

Step 1. Fill a rocks glass with ice

Add in the simple sugar and bitters. If using a sugar cube, add the cube and bitters to the bottom of the glass. Muddle the two until well mixed.

bitters added to bourbon for old fashioned cocktail

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Step 2. Stir to combine

Add in the bourbon. Stir.

Step 3. Garnish and serve

Rim your glass with the citrus peel before dropping it in as a garnish.

Variations on the Old Fashioned

A popular variation for the Old Fashioned cocktail involves swapping out the bourbon for some rye whiskey instead. It was, in fact, the original choice of liquor used to make the original old fashioned cocktail until bourbon took over in the later half of the 20th century. Using a rye-based whiskey, such as Elijah Craig's Straight Rye or Wild Turkey Rye, can offer a spicier kick to your cocktails.

The addition of lemon-lime soda and a homemade citrus syrup transforms the classic old fashioned into an ideal thirst-quenching summertime cocktail.

Use brandy instead of bourbon and a splash of lemon-lime soda, and you'll end up with a Wisconsin old fashioned—it's considered by many to be the state's official cocktail.

While Angostura bitters are traditional, you can switch things up and use orange bitters or unique flavored versions, such as rhubarb and plum.

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How To Garnish an Old Fashioned

While a citrus peel is the traditional garnish for a classic old fashioned drink, you can also use maraschino cherries and orange slices as a garnish before serving your cocktails.


  • Ice cubes

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz.) bourbon , such as Jim Beam or Elijah Craig

  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 Tbsp. (1/2 oz.) simple syrup

  • 1 orange or lemon , for garnish


  1. Add ice and ingredients:

    Place a large ice cube in a rocks glass.

    Southern Living Old Fashioned large ice cube in rocks glass

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    Add the bourbon, bitters, and simple syrup.

    Southern Living Old Fashioned adding the drink ingredients to the glass

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  2. Combine:

    Stir until well-mixed.

    Southern Living Old Fashioned stirring the cocktail

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

  3. Make garnish:

    Using a vegetable peeler, remove a wide strip of the orange or lemon peel, leaving behind as much of the white pith as possible. Twist the peel and squeeze it into the drink.

    Southern Living Old Fashioned adding the citrus peel to the drink

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

    For extra flavor, slice the orange or lemon and rub a piece on the rim of your glass before dropping it into the glass as a garnish.

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