The Old Fashioned

Posted by Moyra T Hakobyan on

The Old Fashioned

Recipe by Narek Hk

Considered as a very first drink defined as a cocktail, the Old Fashioned is more than 200 years old and can be built on brandy, gin, or rum as well. It is derivative of a single-serving American punch called the “Sling,” which includes classic old punch ingredients: spirit (or wine), sugar, water, and spices (nutmeg, in this case). The individual serving of the Sling called for 2 parts spirit, 1 part water, and sugar to sweeten, and was served over ice and sprinkled with nutmeg. Eventually, the bitters which had been used exclusively for medicinal purposes were added into this drink (perhaps accidentally, as in many cases) providing extraordinary depth and rounded flavors. That's how the very first mixed drink named “cocktail” was born.

The Old Fashioned is arguably the oldest cocktail, at least in the modern sense of the word. Its earliest mention is in 1862, in the book Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide, which provides a recipe for the “Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail.” Its instructions bear striking resemblance to those given for creating an Old Fashioned: “Crush a small lump of sugar in a whiskey glass containing a little water, add a lump of ice, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of lemon peel, one jigger Holland gin. Mix with a small bar spoon. Serve."

This gin-based drink would be revised two decades later in the creation of the whiskey-based concoction that the Old Fashioned is known for today. A Louisville, Kentucky bartender named James E. Pepper served a combination of bourbon, bitters, and sugar and eventually brought it with him to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, where its fame grew. By 1895, George Kappeler’s book Modern American Drinks offered a recipe the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail: “Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with a small bar-spoon and serve, leaving the spoon in the glass." 

Decades later when creativity behind the bar encouraged the use of cordial liqueurs--like curaçao or maraschino--as sweeteners and flavorings, the simplest and the very first way of making the cocktail was known as OLD FASHIONED and that’s EXACTLY what is back in the bar today!


  • 2 oz. Bourbon whiskey 
  • Angostura bitters
  • One sugar cube
  • 1 tablespoon (½ oz.) of cold water
  • Ice (ball-shaped is traditional. Use any shape you like, but ensure the ice is fresh and dry)
  • 1 in. strip of orange peel
  • Maraschino cherry (optional)

How to mix it:

  1. Place 1 sugar cube a 6 oz glass, then saturate with two dashes of Angostura bitters (10-12 drops). 
  2. Add 1 tablespoon (½ oz) of cold water, and combine sugar cube and water with a muddler until the sugar is dissolved. 
  3. Add ice to the glass, along with 2 oz. of Bourbon Whiskey, stirring with a bar spoon for a few seconds. 
  4. Twist a one-inch strip of orange peel over the drink to extract the oils from its skin. 
  5. Rub the lip of the glass with the orange skin and drop it into the drink for a garnish. 
  6. Garnish further with a maraschino cherry (optional)


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