Old Fashioned | Cotswold Cocktail School
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Old Fashioned

Cotswold Cocktail School - Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

ABV 32% / 2.5 alcoholic units

Primary spirit: Whiskey

A Brief History of the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned has a storied history dating back to the early 19th century when it was known simply as a "whiskey cocktail." In those times, cocktails were unadorned and uncomplicated, celebrating the essence of their primary spirit.

As bartending and cocktail culture evolved, the term "Old Fashioned" came to signify a return to the traditional way of making cocktails—a nod to the classics in a world increasingly filled with elaborate concoctions. The cocktail became popularized in the late 19th century and, despite the passage of time and ever-changing cocktail trends, has remained an enduring symbol of sophistication.

Taste and Flavor Profile

The Old Fashioned is a cocktail celebrated for its elegant simplicity and well-balanced flavours:

  • Whiskey: The heart of the Old Fashioned, whiskey—usually bourbon or rye—brings forth its warm, oaky character with notes of caramel, vanilla, and a gentle hint of spice.
  • Sugar Cube: A single sugar cube or a touch of simple syrup provides a subtle sweetness that complements the whiskey's depth.
  • Bitters: A couple of dashes of aromatic bitters, often Angostura, introduce complexity with hints of spices, herbs, and citrus.
  • Citrus Twist and Cherry: A citrus twist and maraschino cherry garnish offer a touch of brightness and aroma.

The result is a cocktail that's smooth, well-rounded, and imbued with an air of timeless charm—a true classic that captivates the senses.

Food Pairings

To enhance your Old Fashioned experience, consider these delectable food pairings:

  • Charcuterie Board: A selection of cured meats, cheeses, and accompaniments like olives and nuts complements the cocktail's richness.
  • Steak: A well-cooked steak, especially a New York strip or ribeye, pairs wonderfully with the Old Fashioned's bold flavours.
  • Dark Chocolate: Rich, dark chocolate desserts harmonise with the cocktail's caramel and spice notes.
  • Oysters: Fresh oysters on the half shell provide a delightful contrast to the cocktail's depth.

 Bar Equipment

  • Jigger
  • Muddler
  • Bar spoon
  • Rocks glass


  • 60ml Whiskey (Rye or Bourbon)
  • Sugar cube/4g granulated/5ml simple syrup*
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters 
  • Orange twist and maraschino cherry for garnish
  • Ice 


  • Place a sugar cube into the rocks glass
  • Add the bitters, a dash of whiskey and gently muddle into a paste
  • Add the whiskey and one ice cube - stir until sugar and ice cube has dissolved
  • Fill a fresh rocks glass with ice, pour in liquor, garnish with an orange twist and maraschino cherry

*If using simple syrup, skip the first two steps but remembering to add the bitters. Simple syrup - 1 part sugar to one part water. Gently heat in a pan until sugar has dissolved and allow to cool

What's the best Whiskey for an Old Fashioned?

The best whiskey for an Old Fashioned cocktail largely depends on your personal taste preferences, as well as whether you prefer a sweeter or spicier profile for your drink. Bourbon and rye whiskey are both popular choices for Old Fashioneds, and each type of whiskey brings its own unique flavour profile to the cocktail. Here's a breakdown of the two options:

  • Bourbon Whiskey: Bourbon is a common and classic choice for Old Fashioneds. It has a sweet and mellow flavour profile, often featuring notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak. Using bourbon in your Old Fashioned will result in a cocktail that's smoother and slightly sweeter, making it a great choice if you prefer a sweeter, more approachable drink.
  • Recommended Bourbon Brands: Basil Haydens, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, and Knob Creek are all well-regarded choices for bourbon-based Old Fashioneds
  • Rye Whiskey: Rye whiskey offers a spicier and more robust flavour profile compared to bourbon. It typically includes notes of pepper, cinnamon, and herbs. Opting for rye whiskey in your Old Fashioned will create a cocktail with a bit more complexity and a drier finish. If you enjoy a spicier, bolder flavor profile, rye whiskey is an excellent option.
  • Recommended Rye Whiskey Brands: Bulleit Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, Whistlers Pig and Templeton Rye are commonly used rye whiskeys for Old Fashioneds.

Ultimately, the choice between bourbon and rye for your Old Fashioned comes down to your personal taste. You can experiment with both types of whiskey to find the one that suits your palate and creates the Old Fashioned that you enjoy the most. Some enthusiasts even prefer to combine both bourbon and rye to achieve a balanced and complex flavor in their Old Fashioned.

The key is to use a high-quality whiskey that you appreciate on its own, as it plays a central role in defining the character of the cocktail. Whether you choose bourbon or rye, the result should be a delightful and well-balanced Old Fashioned.

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