An Old-Fashioned cocktail with whiskey, water, and orange pee
An Old-Fashioned cocktail is a classic drink

All about the Old-Fashioned Cocktail

3 minutes

Ever heard of an Old-Fashioned drink? If cocktails are your thing, you’ll know that it’s one of the classics, along with daiquiris, martinis* and the like. Made with just four ingredients, it’s delicious and easy to make*. So, what makes an Old-Fashioned cocktail special?

What Is the Old Fashioned Cocktail?

The old fashioned is a simple cocktail containing just four ingredients: whiskey*, Angostura bitters, sugar, and either orange peel or a cherry garnish. Typically made with rye or bourbon whiskey; however, some purists say bourbon is better for an Old-Fashioned cocktail because of its mellow taste and balance of flavors. But the best advice is simply to use a whiskey you like.

*Alcohol misuse can pose a risk to your health. Consume in moderation.

Where Was the Old Fashioned Cocktail Invented?

The first mentions of the Old-Fashioned cocktail appear around 1806. But it wasn't exactly the same drink as the cocktail that we now call the old fashioned. In those days all cocktails were called old-fashioned drinks and included cocktails made with all types of spirits*. Later it became popular to drink bitters or add water and sugar to spirits, and this gradually evolved into what we know as the old fashioned.

One version has it that the Old-Fashioned cocktail that we know today was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1880 at the Pendennis Club. It was said to have been created by James E. Pepper, who then took his recipe to the Waldorf Astoria hotel bar in New York. Others claim that New York City is the true home of the Old-Fashioned cocktail.

Louisville celebrates their famous cocktail with a two-week event
called the Old Fashioned Fortnight, held in the town each June.

Bottles of whiskey, an ingredient in the Old-Fashioned cocktail
The Old-Fashioned cocktail began life in a private members’ club in Louisville

How to Make the Old-Fashioned Cocktail

You don’t need to be a master mixologist or source exotic ingredients to make an Old Fashioned cocktail (sometimes spelled ‘old fashion cocktail’). You can use any whiskey* you like, although bourbon is often recommended as it combines well with the bitters.3. Garnish...

2 minutes

1. Place...

Sugar in a spoon

...the sugar (either a sugar cube or sugar syrup), water and Angostura bitters in a glass (small).
Mix until all the sugar dissolves.

Sugar in a spoon

2. Fill the glass...

A glass with whiskey and ice cube

...with ice then add the whiskey (you can also add soda water if you like).

A glass with whiskey and ice cube

3. Garnish...

An Old Fashioned Cocktail, with orange and ice

...with orange and cherry, and serve.

An Old Fashioned Cocktail, with orange and ice

Now you know all about this famous cocktail. Why not try an Old Fashioned drink the next time you’re in a cocktail bar! There are lots of great cocktail bars in London where you can sample an old fashioned. Or maybe even make one yourself at home*. 



*Alcohol misuse can pose a risk to your health. Consume in moderation.

3 Old-Fashioned cocktails prepared by a bartender
Tasting an Old-Fashioned cocktail in a bar with friends


Old-Fashioned Cocktail, in a Nutshell

An Old Fashioned is a simple cocktail made with whiskey*, bitters, sugar, and orange peel or a cherry garnish.

There are six main recipes from which you can create any other cocktail. The Old-Fashioned cocktail is one of these, and the other five are daiquiri, martini, whiskey highball, flip, and sidecar*.

Although they can both be made with rye or bourbon, an Old-Fashioned cocktail is more often made with bourbon. The Old Fashioned is sweetened with sugar, but the Manhattan uses sweet vermouth instead*.

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