Old Fashioned

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Fixing a cocktail for your dad on Father's Day can be tough. If your father is the type to enjoy the occasional glass, chances are he's been drinking the same bourbon or scotch for years because, well, that's what he likes and always has. But this is supposed to be a special day, a time when you break with your habits but still stay inside your respective comfort zones. So try something different; just remember, when you're preparing a drink for your father, there's one simple rule to follow: don't screw it up.

This one's hard to screw up. The Old Fashioned is one of the most venerable of cocktails, predating not only the motor car but the presidency of Abe Lincoln. Properly made, it's strong, but not too much, and sweet, but not too much; most important, it's dead simple to make, and absolutely delicious.

There's too much orthodoxy thrown about with cocktails, so instead of indicating a "right" or "wrong" way of making this, I'll simply say this is the traditional way from the Old Fashioned's youth. It differs from most Old Fashioneds you'll find today in its absence of fruit and soda water; the former makes the drink sweeter than is strictly necessary, and the latter makes it weaker. If you use a decent whiskey—which you should—you won't need the additional sweetness or the distracting flavors from the fruit; and if you add a couple of good-size chunks of ice to the glass, the time you spend chatting with your dad over the drink will take care of the additional dilution.

My kids are still at the chocolate milk and root beer stage, but in another couple of decades I look forward to sitting down with them on a Sunday in June, and having them take care of what I want (for a change). When they do, if they bring out one of these, I'll know I did at least a few things right.

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

Old Fashioned

About This Recipe

Yield:makes 1 cocktail


  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey (use something good, but not over-the-top)
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar (or 1 sugar cube)
  • 2-3 dashes of bitters; Angostura is traditional and works well; Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Bitters are better


  1. 1

    Place the sugar in an Old Fashioned glass and douse with the bitters; add a few drops of water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the whiskey and give a few good stirs to further dissolve the sugar, then add a couple of large ice cubes. Stir a few times to chill; garnish, if you like, with a slice of orange and a cherry, though it’s perfectly fine to skip this step. If you’re accustomed to topping the drink with soda, at least give it a chance once without; your father brought you up to be open-minded.


Add a rating with your comment:

Comments can take up to a minute to appear - please be patient!

Previewing your comment: