Whisky business: the Old fashioned

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Words and recipe by Ross Drummond

With World Whisky Day just hours away, I thought that beginning with a good Old fashioned would be a perfect gateway to malts, single barrels and all manner of whiskies. First, though, a wee history lesson.

Let’s clear something up; if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s spelled whiskey or whisky, remember this: there’s an ‘e’ in the spelling for Irish and American whiskey, and no ‘e’ for Scotch or Scotch-style.

Now, back in the early 1800s, otherwise known as “the day”, the USA had it good – at least when it came to whiskey; it was tax free because the US government’s main source of income was its import taxes. This meant that home-grown rye whiskey was cheap; a drink for the masses. It also tasted – how can I put this? – God-awful. However, this was nothing that a few dashes of bitters, some sugar and a drop of water (no ice, that was still a luxury) couldn’t fix though.

If you still weren’t tough enough to deal with the sensation of burning nostrils, then a little orange or lemon peel would quickly fix such a sensation. It was with these humble beginnings that the basis for what we call the Old fashioned was created.

Eventually the US government awoke from their 80-proof stupor and began taxing whiskey and relaxing the taxes on wine – suggesting that the “medicinal” benefits of wine were better for the American citizens than the rocket fuel they were currently consuming.

As the price of whiskey went up so did the quality, and the ingredients of the Old fashioned that once concealed the alcohol burn were now being used to help enhance the flavours in a different way.

The keen Googlers among you (like, page 18-of-many-keen) and other budding Old fashioned historians might want to dispute this, but the Old fashioned whiskey cocktail with its fruit, muddled (the practice of grinding herbs or fruit with sugar in the bottom of a glass with either a spoon or pestle-like tool called a muddler before adding liquid) sugar and bourbon base was first recorded and ordered at the Pendennis Club, Kentucky, in 1881.

“Bourbon? What?!” I hear you cry – well there, whiskey wizard, Kentucky in 1881 had a more barren rye whiskey landscape than it does today and there were plenty more good bourbons at a bartenders’ disposal than ryes.

Regardless of your preference (we don’t discriminate here kids) and where you look, a classic Old fashioned recipe will have a bourbon or rye whiskey at its heart, but don’t sweat it too much and feel free to experiment. In the Midwest they sometimes even use brandy (OK, I might discriminate a little there).

But enough history, let’s get into the drink itself. I’m giving you my non-fruit-muddled recipe, but if you want to be more fruity and muddle the orange peel I’ll turn a blind eye this time. Here are my ground rules for a good Old fashioned.

  • Make each drink individually as opposed to in batches
  • Use an Old fashioned glass, also known as a lowball or rocks glass – or, basically, a tumbler with a thick bottom for when you get your muddle on
  • Use a teaspoon of caster sugar or a sugar cube – it depends how much you want to muddleUse just a little hot water, if muddling
  • If you don’t fancy muddling, buy sugar syrup – it’s what I do as it means you don’t need to dilute your whiskey!
  • Use Angostura bitters and muddle the sugar water and bitters until well blended
  • Don’t eat or muddle your fruit garnish, if using
  • Cut a large strip of orange peel and twist it over the glass – this will add a drop of citrus oil to your drink
  • Use as few ice cubes as possible, or even get yourself some fancy whisky stones, which chill like ice but of course don’t dissolve and dilute

I take inspiration from a ‘60s-style Old fashioned, though I lose the maraschino cherries they used because they’re a fruit too many for me.


  • 1 teaspoon sugar syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 50ml quality bourbon
  • Twist of orange peel

Pour 1 teaspoon of sugar syrup into a glass. Add 3 dashes of Angostura bitters…

…then 50ml of bourbon.

Add a few cubes of ice and stir slowly.

Garnish with your orange peel, gently rubbing over the rim of the glass if you wish, and serve.

Now keep it down – we’re trying to drink over here.

Manhattan vs Old Fashioned – The Classic Whisky Cocktails

The Manhattan and the Old Fashioned: two of the most well-known cocktails in the world. Walk into any bar and you’ll be able to order one without thinking twice.

But what really is the difference? Whether you’re looking for a solid go-to cocktail or just curious about the difference, get ready to explore two of the most classic whisky cocktails.

Recipe: Whiskey cake, old-fashioned and delicious

If there’s a delicious old-fashioned dessert you don’t see around that much these days, it’s a cake soaked in a syrup made with a spirit like rum, Grand Marnier or whiskey, with enough alcohol in a portion to give you the sense of well-being you get from a shot or cocktail.

At Argyll Whisky Beer, our former pastry chef Emily Rasmussen-Goodwin developed this delicious dessert, a bundt cake soaked in a delicious syrup made with whiskey, orange juice, vanilla bean, brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon.

When making the Brown Sugar Bundt Cake, be careful not to overmix it, which means turning the mixer off once the dry ingredients are just incorporated.

Serve the Whiskey Cake with a high-quality bitter marmalade and a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche.

Whiskey Cake



2 cups all-purpose flour½ teaspoon baking soda

cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


½ cup brown sugar½ vanilla bean, scraped


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use a bundt pan (or cake pan if you don’t have a bundt pan) and spray with nonstick spray, and lightly coat with flour. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Sift and set aside.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter to the consistency of mayonnaise. Add sugars and paddle on medium for 2 minutes until fluffy. Add sour cream and beat until just combined, add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl between each addition, and add vanilla extract. Beat until just combined.

Add sifted flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and distribute evenly.

Bake at 325 degrees for 12 minutes, rotate, and bake another 12 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.


Heat brown sugar, vanilla, orange juice, cinnamon and vanilla bean in a sauce pan on medium until sugar is dissolved. Add whiskey and set aside.


When cake is set, remove from oven and place upside down on a tray lined with parchment paper. Let cool for an hour.

Gently remove pan from cake, and brush generously with whiskey syrup as desired.

Best Budget: Old Grand-Dad 114 Kentucky Straight Bourbon

  • Region: Kentucky
  • ABV: 57%
  • Tasting Notes: Spice, honey, orange zest

"The rye brings spice into corn," says Krueger, "but the proof is what's going to carry through." A bartender's bottom-shelf favorite, Old Grand-Dad benefits from the 47% rye mash bill that its maker, Jim Beam also uses for Basil Hayden, on top of a high ABV.

"If you were to do a best of both worlds between a bourbon and rye," says Desoblin, "you get that with Old Grand-Dad 114. It's a bourbon with a lot of character."

The Original Very Old Fashioned, Matheson's Sour: Classics with a twist this World Whisky Day

World Whisky Day, founded in 2012, celebrates the drink in all its forms - on the rocks, with a mixer, or as a cocktail. The day is about the fun, inclusive side of whisky - for those who love a good malt, but also for the newbies still acquiring a taste for it.

So to mark the third SaturdayThe Original Very Old Fashioned, Matheson's Sour: Classics with a twist this World Whisky Day

of May (a.k.a. Whisky Day), we got the experts at Glenmorangie to share some of their favourite cocktail recipes.

From their version of the classic Old Fashioned - strong but sweetly balanced - to Matheson's Sour (named after the Glenmorangie founder) which is a twist to Whisky Sour, with elderflower cordial and the sweet nuttiness of orgeat syrup combined with fresh lemon juice and bitters, there's something for every taste.

The Original Very Old Fashioned

- Combine the ingredients in a glass. Mix and muddle to dissolve sugar
- Add ice (block ice preferred) and stir to chill and slightly dilute
- Finish with an orange twist

Matheson's Sour

Glenmorangie Original: 50 ml
Freshly squeezed lemon juice: 25 ml
Elderflower cordial: 10 ml
Orgeat syrup: 10 ml
Angostura Bitters: 1 dash
Garnish: Flamed orange zest

- Shake all the ingredients with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker
- Double strain into a glass
- Finish with flamed orange zest

Ruban Resplendent

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban: 50 ml
Sweet vermouth: 15 ml
White crème de cacao: 10 ml
Garnish: Orange twist

- Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass, fill with ice cubes and stir until chilled and slightly diluted
- Double strain into a glass
- Serve with an orange twist, straight up

Add the sugar, a dash of water and Angostura bitters to an Old Fashioned Lowball glass. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. If you are using a sugar cube, use a muddler to crush it.

Once the sugar, bitters and water have combined, add a large ice cube to the glass. Pour in the Rabbit Hole Bourbon whiskey, and stir the mixture gently.

Garnish the drink with a slice of orange peel, and enjoy the Old Fashioned.


The Nellie Kuh is a perfect choice for the summers, and makes an even better companion when you’re on a day out on the beach.

Spend Summer Evenings with the L.A. Mule

The pleasant summer cocktail, the L.A. Mule, offers the perfect Los Angeles experience with a refreshing twist to a time-tested classic, the Moscow Mule. The.

Sinful Morsels: How to Make Chocolate Whiskey Truffles

Some matches are made in heaven. And, if it’s about finding one that does justice to your appetite, then it has to be whiskey and.

Old Fashioned Cocktail with Glen Moray for Burns Night

I love the fact that classic cocktails &ndash the kind that my dad used to make without too much hassle &ndash are making a comeback. One classic whisky cocktail, an Old Fashioned is one of the best ways I know to enjoy a single malt, and it&rsquos also incredibly simple to put together. Much as I love the &lsquofine dining&rsquo cocktails you get in London&rsquos top bars, just as I enjoy a well-prepared steak or a platter of oysters with traditional service, cocktails like the &lsquoOld Fashioned&lsquo are classics for a reason.

What better excuse to indulge in practising my skills at making an Old Fashioned than Burns Night on 25th January &ndash except that, an &lsquoOld Fashioned&rsquo isn&rsquot actually a drink from Scotland at all, but one which some say originated in Louisville Kentucky at the Pendennis Club in honour of Col. James E. Pepper. Of course, that means rather than being traditionally made with whisky, it would have been made with Bourbon whiskey. Other theories include that the classic whisky cocktail was named after a famous racehorse of the time called &lsquoFashion&rsquo or that it was simply the result of customers asking for their whiskey to be served the &lsquoold fashioned&rsquo way. Whatever the truth, it wasn&rsquot until 1895 that recipes were published for Old Fashioned cocktails, in George Kappeler&rsquos book &lsquoModern American Drinks&rsquo. Given the collection included a number of &lsquoOld Fashioned&rsquo cocktails, for Whiskey, Brandy and Gin, it seems likely that the origin of the &lsquoOld Fashioned&rsquo we know today was, quite simply, that customers were asking for their drinks to be served in a traditional form.

George Kappeler&rsquos Whiskey Old Fashioned is quite simple. You need a lump of sugar, a little water, two dashes of Angostura bitters, ice and lemon peel. And, about 60ml of whiskey. All you do is dissolve the sugar in the water, before adding the remaining ingredients and mixing with a small bar-spoon. He suggested serving with the spoon in the glass.

Meanwhile, the lovely people at Glen Moray have been sharing their own Old Fashioned recipes with me. Last year, at about this time I shared the Port Cask Finish Old Fashioned, which is made with Earl Grey Syrup. This year, I&rsquom going back to the classic and sharing a classic whisky cocktail recipe for an Old Fashioned. It&rsquos one of those recipes which is so simple there are only a few things you can do to make it different but I do think it&rsquos important to remember a few details.

Firstly, you need to use the right glass &ndash a short tumbler. I&rsquove made mine in one of my Father&rsquos old crystal glasses because I think he&rsquod approve of this particular cocktail.

Secondly, the garnish of orange and a cocktail cherry is important.

Finally, although this would traditionally have been made with bourbon, I believe it&rsquos the quality of the spirit which matters. Glen Moray is a classic whisky, a Speyside single malt, which is the starting point for a range of single malt whiskies. All Scotch Whisky must be matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years but is often matured much longer. Finishing, by transferring the whisky to empty casks that previously held other wines or spirits adds a depth of flavour from the interaction of the spirit with the wood of the cask.

Glen Moray, which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017, is still distilled in pot stills, from water and malted barley, then carefully matured in American oak casks. The result, a typical Single Malt from Speyside, is soft and fruity. Glen Moray has a peated whisky which is made by drying the barley with peat smoke before distillation. I am yet to try it but which my own island heritage (my Father&rsquos side of the family comes from Mull and Skye) means I am likely to have a taste for it. There&rsquos a sherry cask finish and a port cask finished whisky. And then there are the aged whiskies. Twelve, fifteen and eighteen years aged &ndash that means the youngest whisky used is the stated age.

For a classic Old Fashioned whisky cocktail, I&rsquod recommend using the Glen Moray Elgin Classic.

Captions About The Old Fashioned

  1. I like that you’re a little Old Fashioned.
  2. Call me old-fashioned.
  3. I make pour decisions.
  4. Whiskey Business.
  5. The Granddaddy of Cocktails.
  6. Save water, drink old fashioneds.
  7. Old Fashioned but Never Out of Style.
  8. Happy Hour Views.
  9. It’s beginning to look a lot like Old Fashioneds.
  10. The World’s First Classic Cocktail.
  11. Twinkle, twinkle little star, point us to the nearest bar.
  12. Old fashioned Enthusiast.
  13. My life coach is an old fashioned.
  14. I’m just an old fashioned kind of guy.
  15. Stir Mix a lot.
  16. Old Fashioned Kind of Love.
  17. Have some good Old Fashioned fun!
  18. The only thing I like throwing back on Thursdays is Old Fashioned’s.
  19. Old Fashioned: Official State Drink of Wisconsin.
  20. Just an Old Fashioned Love Song.

Call Me Old Fashioned Meme

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Try These Riffs On The Old Fashioned For International Whiskey Day

Whiskey (or whisky) is a truly global spirit. From Taiwan to Tennessee and seemingly everywhere in between, whiskey sits aging in barrels, ready to be sipped by eager drinkers. Rye, bourbon, Japanese whisky, Irish whiskey, Scotch, Canadian whiskey — there are as many styles as there are days of the month. But don’t let this excess of options stop you from making tomorrow feel like a special celebration. It’s International Whisk(e)y Day and that means a dram or two extra are in order.

If you’re a fan of the brown stuff, you’re probably going to be enjoying a glass or two of your favorite bottle tomorrow afternoon. But if cocktails are more your thing, might we suggest the classic Old Fashioned? This beloved drink is made with bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar (or simple syrup), Angostura bitters, a twist of orange, and a splash of water.

Even though it’s simple to make — or perhaps because of it — this drink is readily adaptable. In honor of International Whiskey Day, we found some of the best alternatives to the classic recipe. Check them out below:

THE FAMILIAR ONE — Whiskey Old Fashioned


  • 2.25oz Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
  • 1 cube of demerara sugar
  • 1 shake of Angostura bitters
  • 1 shake of regans orange bitters

Directions: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Crush sugar cube with a muddler and stir until well integrated. Add large cubed ice and stir until drink is properly chilled. Top with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh orange peel and two brandied cherries on a cocktail pick.

THE PICK ME UP — Espresso Old Fashioned

  • 2 parts Redemption Rye
  • 2 parts espresso (or cold brew)
  • 1/4 part Simple Syrup
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
  • Absinthe rinse

Directions: Stir all ingredients and strain into absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Express lemon oil and include as garnish.


  • 2oz Wagyu Infused Iwai Whiskey
  • .5oz Walnut Liquor
  • 2 dash Fees Brothers Walnut Bitter
  • Rocks Glass Long Burnt Orange Peel
  • Large ice cube

Directions: The Wagyu is from Japanese Wagyu. Render the Fat on medium heat in a sauce pan until liquid, warm a bottle of Iwai Japanese Whisky. Mix 1/4 cup of the liquid fat with the warm Whisky, let it sit at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. Freeze overnight. Strain through cheese cloth into whisky bottle.

THE SMOOTH OPERATOR — Cognac Old Fashioned

  • 2.25oz Hardy VS cognac
  • 1 cube of demerara sugar
  • 1 shake of Angostura bitters
  • 1 shake of Regan’s orange bitters

Directions: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Crush sugar cube with a muddled and stir until well-integrated. Add large cubed ice and stir until drink is properly chilled. Top with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh orange peel and two brandied cherries on a cocktail pick.

THE ‘GRANDPA’S OFFICE’ — Smoked Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • .5 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 ea. Bordeaux Cherry
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Other recommended materials: Smoker, torch & oak chips, rocks and snifter glass.

Directions: Stir ingredients with ice 10x’s and strain over large ice cube in a rocks glass. Add oak chips to Smoker and torch to fill glass with smoke. If you don’t have a smoker, you can smoke your glass by torching an oak plank or fresh herbs and capping it with your rocks glass to capture the smoke flavors. Cap glass with snifter to capture the smoke and allow oak flavors to mix with the Old Fashioned. Uncap your cocktail and enjoy.

THE COUNTRY SIPPER — Maple Old Fashioned

From Juniper Cocktail Lounge in Las Vegas

  • 2 oz Whistle Pig 10 Year Rye Whiskey
  • ¼ oz Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Highball

Directions: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Crush sugar cube with a muddler and stir until well-integrated. Add large cubed ice and stir until the drink is properly chilled. Top with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh orange peel.

YOUR OLD MAN’S DRINK — Bourbon Old Fashioned

  • 2.25oz Belle Meade Bourbon
  • 1 cube of demerara sugar
  • 1 shake of Angostura bitters
  • 1 shake of Regan’s orange bitters

Directions: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Crush sugar cube with a muddler and stir until well-integrated. Add large cubed ice and stir until drink is properly chilled. Top with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh orange peel.

THE ORCHARD — Bites Back

From Tommy Flynn, Beverage Director at Paper Daisy in New York City

  • 1oz Rittenhouse Rye
  • 0.75oz Barking Irons Applejack
  • 0.75oz Lustau Fino sherry
  • 0.5oz Giffard Banane de Bresil
  • 0.25oz honey
  • 4 dash Angostura Bitters

Directions: add all ingredients, stir with ice. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Express an orange twist and garnish with grated nutmeg.

THE TOKYO STYLE — Japanese Old Fashioned

  • 2.25oz Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey
  • 1 cube of kokuto sugar
  • 1 shake of Angostura bitters
  • 1 shake of Regan’s orange bitters

Directions: Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Crush sugar cube with a muddler and stir until well integrated. Add large cubed ice and stir until drink is properly chilled. Top with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh orange peel and two brandied cherries on a cocktail pick.

More whiskey cocktails

We’ve got lots of great whiskey cocktails and bourbon cocktails for you to choose from! Here are our favorites:

    Perfectly balanced and so easy to make! Or add a foam topping to make it a Boston Sour. A tangy and refreshing whiskey drink with lemon juice and mint — like a citrus spin on the Mint Julep. A stunning classic cocktail! This easy three ingredient drink an the improvement on the Negroni, swapping gin for warm whiskey. The official cocktail of New Orleans! Cognac, whiskey and absinthe make up this famous drink. Or try La Louisiane, an even better spin on this classic. Combines the depth and warmth of whiskey with the intrigue of herbal Fernet-Branca liqueur. Add style to your evening with this easy classic whiskey cocktail made with just three ingredients. A retro highball cocktail full of fruity flavor. This tasty modern classic stars Scotch, honey, lemon and ginger. Strong and sippable, it features whiskey, Cognac and vermouth.

Published on March 3, 2020 / Last updated on June 9, 2021

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