Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

The classic Old Fashioned cocktail features little more than whiskey, sugar, and bitters. Done right, it's a perfectly balanced, timeless crowd-pleaser.

Photograph: Vicky Wasik. Video: Serious Eats

Why It Works

  • Bitters add complexity and dimension to the bourbon or rye.
  • Sugar brings subtle sweetness to open the bourbon's aroma.
  • Toasted sugar tastes less sweet than plain, and can add a subtle note of caramel to play off the bourbon or rye.

The Old Fashioned is one of the most venerable of cocktails, predating not only the motorcar but the presidency of Abe Lincoln. All it takes is serving whiskey, sugar, bitters and, if you like, a cherry or orange garnish on the rocks. Properly made, it's strong but not too strong, sweet but not too sweet, and, most importantly, it's dead-simple and absolutely delicious.

The best bitters for an Old Fashioned are up for debate, but Angostura is classic for a reason, while Fee Brothers offer a welcome alternative.

Recipe Facts

Active: 5 mins
Total: 5 mins
Serves: 1 serving

Rate & Comment


  • 1 teaspoon (5g) superfine sugar, toasted sugar, or 1 sugar cube
  • 2 to 3 dashes bitters (Angostura bitters are traditional and work well; Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Bitters are better)
  • 2 ounces (60ml) bourbon or rye whiskey
  • Orange and/or cocktail cherry, such as Luxardo to garnish (optional)


  1. Combine whiskey, bitters, and sugar in a mixing glass. Add several large ice cubes and stir rapidly with a bar spoon to chill. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish, if you like, with a slice of orange and/or a cherry.

Special equipment

Mixing glass, Cocktail strainer


The best bourbon for an Old Fashioned is a highly personal decision; Bulleit is a safe choice for bourbon or rye, while Four Roses has a pleasant caramel edge for cocktail newcomers.