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This Twist on a Classic Old Fashioned Will Make It Your New Favorite Summer Cocktail

One sip, and you'll know why this drink has been a favorite for centuries!

It might be called an Old Fashioned, but this classic cocktail is anything but! The whiskey tipple gets a hint of sweetness from sugar and a bit of spice from bitters — it’s a combination that has been delighting drink enthusiasts for centuries. Even better, it’s simple to make at home with a few ingredients and super easy to customize to your tastes. Read on for the best Old Fashioned recipe plus a sparkling twist that’s extra refreshing on a hot day.  

The history of the Old Fashioned  

There are a few theories on who can actually take credit for the original Old Fashioned. Believe it or not, in the early 1800s, the term ‘old fashioned’ was just another phrase for a cocktail – so any mixed drink featuring liquor fit the bill. Around the 1860s, it became more narrowly defined as a drink with bitters, sugar, water and your liquor of choice. Later in the 19th century, it’s believed that the Old Fashioned as we know it was first introduced by a bartender at The Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in honor of James E. Pepper, a local bourbon distiller. 

How did the drink get so popular? 

When James E. Pepper brought the Old Fashioned from The Pendennis Club in Louisville to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel bar in New York City, he revealed the recipe, which helped its popularity spread. By 1895, the Old Fashioned recipe was featured in the book Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler, and today it’s one of the most popular drink orders at bars worldwide. 

It’s an ongoing debate whether Louisville or New York City is the true home to the cocktail. However, in 2015, Louisville coined the Old Fashioned as the official cocktail of their city, with an event every June called The Old Fashioned Fortnight to celebrate.

How to make a classic Old Fashioned

Many Old Fashioned recipes start by muddling a sugar cube with a bit of water. We like to use simple syrup instead, which makes it easier to add the perfect level of sweetness. Plus, you can always add a dash more if you prefer your cocktail a bit more sweet. We finish ours with a Luxardo cherry — these are candied cherries that have been soaked in cherry syrup. You can also use a maraschino cherry.


  • 1 orange
  • 2 tsp. simple syrup 
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • 2 oz. whiskey 
  • Luxardo cherry 


  1. Using vegetable peeler, peel one wide strip of zest from orange.
  2. Add simple syrup, bitters and 1 tsp. water to cocktail glass; stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 cup ice and whiskey; garnish with orange peel and cherry.  

How to make an Old Fashioned Spritz

Old Fashioned Bourbon Spritz recipe
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

The classic Old Fashioned recipe is a favorite year-round, but if you want something lighter, turn it into an Old Fashioned Spritz. This sparkling sip is extra-refreshing on summer days.


  • 1 orange
  • 2 oz. bourbon 
  • 2 Tbs. simple syrup 
  • 3 dashes angostura bitters 
  • Orange-flavored sparkling water 


  1. Using vegetable peeler, peel one wide strip of zest from orange.
  2. Squeeze 2 Tbs. juice from orange; add to cocktail glass with bourbon, simple syrup and bitters. Stir to combine.
  3. Add 1 cup ice; top with sparkling water. Garnish with orange peel. 

What’s the best type of whiskey to use?  

When it comes to what liquor to use in an Old Fashioned recipe, you can choose between whiskey, rye, bourbon or scotch , these are all actually just different types of whiskey that contain very different characteristics, and it all depends on your flavor preference. For starters, rye whiskey is made with rye and malt mash. Much stronger in alcohol, it also has many more noticeable spice notes, making it easy to appreciate in an Old Fashioned. Regular whiskey has more of an oaky note due to its time aging in barrels and is made using corn, barley, wheat and smaller amounts of rye. Scotch, hailing from Scotland, is much smokier because it uses mostly barley, which is then malted and exposed to heat. For a sweeter liquor, opt for bourbon, which originated in Kentucky and gets most of its flavor from fermented corn. 

Delicious variations on an Old Fashioned 

The Old Fashioned recipe is super-simple to customize to your tastes — just play add more or less sugar and bitters to get the flavor balance you want. And for even more delicious drinks, try one of these fun variations:

For a sweet ‘n’ salty Old Fashioned, use bacon-flavored bourbon as your whiskey of choice, and swap in maple syrup for the sugar. If you want to get even fancier, use a slice of crispy bacon for garnish in place of the orange peel and cherries. 

For a dessert-like Old Fashioned, try stirring in crème de cacao into your traditional concoction for a hint of chocolate flavor, and subbing in peach bitters for angostura bitters. Finish with a lemon twist. 

For an Old Fashioned with fall flair, try stirring in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar and vanilla extract in place of the sugar, with bourbon and orange bitters as usual. 

Old Fashioned vs Manhattan: What’s the difference?

The only real difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan — the two most popular whiskey cocktails to order — is in the sweetener. An Old Fashioned uses sugar, while a Manhattan uses sweet vermouth. One other difference is the way it’s served. An Old Fashioned is served on the rocks in a whiskey glass, and a Manhattan is typically in a chilled stemmed martini glass. All in all, they’re very similar in taste, as they both use bourbon or whiskey as their base, with a few dashes of bitters, and can be garnished with orange peel and cherries. 

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