Old Fashioned Getty 8/21/19

The aptly named old fashioned—a muddled mixture of whiskey (usually bourbon), sugar, water, and bitters—is about as classic as a cocktail can get. In fact, it might even be the original cocktail. 

What Is an Old Fashioned Cocktail? 

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The Pendennis Club, a crazy classy private social club in Kentucky, touts itself as the birthplace of the old fashioned. Many experts dispute this claim, however, saying that the term was in use before the club was even founded. 

It’s likely that the drink is called “the old fashioned,” because it is, in fact, old fashioned. The name comes from people ordering the drink the "old-fashioned way, Thrillist reports. 

When cocktails first hit the bar scene in the early 19th century, they had four common ingredients: bitters, sugar, water, and some type of booze. Sound familiar? 

People didn’t start calling the drink “old fashioned” until newer combinations of ingredients made it necessary.  

A classic old fashioned is made by pouring whiskey over muddled sugar, water, and bitters, then garnishing with an orange peel. These days, the water is often replaced with ice. 

There are a few common modifications, including: Garnishing with an orange slice, a maraschino cherry, or both; and muddling oranges, cherries, or other fruits along with the bitters. 

The drink is always served in an old fashioned (or lowball) glass. 

Old Fashioned vs. Manhattan 

Manhattans—made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters—and old fashioneds are both extremely popular whiskey-based cocktails that share a few ingredients. However, they do have some key differences:

  • An old fashioned is sweetened with sugar, while a Manhattan is sweetened with vermouth. 
  • An old fashioned is garnished with an orange peel, while a Manhattan is garnished with a brandied cherry. 
  • An old fashioned is served in a lowball glass, while a Manhattan is traditionally served in a stemmed martini glass. 

How Do You Make an Old Fashioned? 

There are a few ways to make an old fashioned, but all of them involve whiskey, water or ice, bitters, some sort of citrus (usually an orange), and a sweetener (sugar cubes or simple syrup).

Watch our video for detailed instructions or click here for a recipe.  

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