The Old Fashioned name came about in the 1880s, but comes from much earlier in the century. Originally in the early 1800s there was a newfangled drink called a “cocktail,” which involved adding a little sweetener and some bitters to your shot of liquor. This was the extent of the original definition of a cocktail. Things started to get a little fancier over the decades though, and people were adding all kinds of things to cocktails. Later on, if you wanted just a good, ol’ original cocktail, you needed to order yourself an old-fashioned cocktail.

There is a lot of chatter about the right way to make an Old Fashioned. There is the “original” way that snobs like me hold to, and then there are the myriad variations and bastardizations that have evolved over the years. I’m going to stick to my guns on what I consider a proper Old Fashioned, but I do want to say that everyone should drink what they like. That said, if you’re gonna mess with a classic, you should rename the drink. An Old Fashioned is extremely simple, and does not involved muddled fruit. If you’d like to get a detailed run-down of a proper Old Fashioned, I recommend you check out the Old Fashioned 101 site.

One point of contention for real Old Fashioned nerds is the sugar versus simple syrup debate. Some swear you have to take the time to stir the sugar with water until it dissolves. It seems like a waste of time for the same outcome. You’re just making cold simple syrup by hand in the glass. For those who love the ritual of it, I salute you, but I am way to impatient for that.


I pointed you to the great Old Fashioned 101 site above, but here is the quick recipe, as I make it.

Build in a rocks glass, 2.25 oz.

  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
  • garnish: orange twist

Build the ingredients in the glass, add some ice, and give it an orange twist. If you find you don’t like your Old Fashioned getting watered down, try using a bigger ice cube, which will melt slower, or you can even stir the ingredients with ice to chill and dilute it just a touch, and then strain it into the glass without ice. This would be having it “up,” instead of “on the rocks” and it really is just a matter of preference.