The Old Fashioned

February 21, 2013

Some things just go together -- and the obvious accompaniment to food is drink. Welcome to Booze52, in which we explore all manner of libations that do much more than just wash down a meal. 

Today: A drink with a name that lies -- walk through our step-by-step photos to make a cocktail has never gone out of fashion. 

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A lot of cocktails come and go. This one has hung around -- for at least 200 years. What’s with all the staying power?

That depends on who you ask. Rye or bourbon lovers stand by its side for the clear breakthrough of flavor. “It’s strong, square-jawed, with just enough civilization to keep you from hollerin' like a mountain-jack,” describes cocktail historian David Wondrich. It’s a smart drink, offering enough complexity in taste without obliterating the very spirit that makes it good in the first place. Others appreciate its simplicity; they admire its marbled color and its timelessness.

This is the cocktail holy trinity of spirit, sugar, and bitters, people. Which means that we should venerate Old Fashioneds -- and drink lots of them. 

Old Fashioned

1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz. rye whiskey
Orange peel (for garnish)


Place sugar cube in bottom of a rocks glass. Add bitters, an orange peel, and a splash of water.


Crush sugar thoroughly with a wooden muddler or strong spoon, muddling the orange peel to extract its oils as well. Pour in the whiskey, place a few ice cubes in the glass, and then and stir until well chilled. 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

How do you fancy your Old Fashioned? 

Photos by James Ransom 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Doug Wren
    Doug Wren
  • Kate TenPas
    Kate TenPas
  • David
  • Greg4
  • Erika Kotite
    Erika Kotite
I spend about an equal amount of time behind the laptop and behind the stove. In between preparing and writing about food, I love to hang out with my husband, three children, big shaggy dog and two cats. History is also my thing, especially the Regency period, U.S. Westward expansion and World War II. Favorite drinks: good pinot noirs and classic martinis. Favorite book: Pride & Prejudice. Favorite obsessions: Laura Ingalls Wilder and South Dakota


Doug W. October 30, 2015
I literally grew up making my grandfathers favorite cocktail, the Old Fashion. My reward for tending bar as a kid was a sugar cube...or two. I prefer Bourbon, the cherry & orange muddled with the cube and 3 dashes of Angostura, plus a little seltzer instead of still water. Best cocktail ever.
Kate T. March 24, 2015
In Wisconsin, the area I'm from will use brandy or whiskey (depending on what the person wants) and then we add either sour soda or sprite to make it a whiskey/burbon old fashion sweet/sour. No one else makes them like this?
David November 8, 2014
In Wisconsin, the drink is Brandy Old Fashion. I use Brandy made in Bardstown, Kentucky because I also enjoy Kentucky Bourbon. When I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin nearly thirty years ago, my son-in-law's father made me my first Brandy Old Fashion. I have been drinking them ever since and always think of Larry.
Greg4 September 12, 2014
Use bourbon instead of rye preferably a high proof like pappy, fighting cock or wild turkey... Bourbon was the initial main ingredient when the old fashion was invented in the heart of bourbon country, Louisville
Erika K. August 24, 2013
Nice, huh? The rocks glass isn't mine; let me try to find out for you.
ttiff August 24, 2013
That rocks glass is amazing! I've been scouring the ends of the earth looking for something like that. Where is it from?
Erika K. August 24, 2013
Nice huh? The rocks glass isn't mine; let me try to find out for you.
Erika K. September 3, 2013
sorry for the delay. Try FishsEddy--think it's the DOF Lexington glass...
Jesse A. March 7, 2013
Where is the muddled cherry?
Erika K. March 7, 2013
no muddled cherry...but remind me to tell you about our family's famous purloined maraschino cherry story! Involves an Old Fashioned with Southern Comfort, a generous grandma and a mom who, well, wasn't so generous.
Nick R. March 21, 2013
Traditionally it didn't even have orange peel. I throw the cherry in mine but I don't muddle it. I love popping a rye soaked cherry in my mouth at the end.
Laura D. February 24, 2013
Can't wait to try this with Van Brunt Stillhouse rye when it's ready!
Greenstuff February 21, 2013
The Old Fashioned was the only cocktail my mother mixed (instead of my father who was their usual bar tender and wine steward). I have one on occasion and would be happy drinking them most every day.
Erika K. February 22, 2013
I have really happy memories of my mom and grandmother ordering an "Old Fashioned with Southern Comfort" every time we went out to eat.
Erika K. February 21, 2013
Muddling with the orange gives the drink a more intense citrus flavor-yum!
Lesliebling February 21, 2013
Nice choice of cocktail to feature! The instructions and pics are inconsistent about the twists, though - lemon and orange or just orange? Muddle with the sugar or add at the end? Please clarify!
Kenzi W. February 21, 2013
Glad you like it! We've fixed that detail -- orange is traditional, but feel free to give lemon a try if you like! And the sugar is muddled at the beginning, as the pictures show.
Lesliebling February 21, 2013
Thanks so much for the response. To clarify, my second Q was about whether you suggest that the orange twist be involved in the sugar muddling (as in the pics, which I've seen done) or only added at the end (as in the text, which I've also heard).
Kenzi W. February 21, 2013
Aha! So sorry for the confusion. We muddle with the peel, and then add another garnish, but it's up to you! Some people just leave the muddled peel as is. (Delicious both ways!)