10 New Twists on the Classic Old-Fashioned

By Brie Shelley


Brie Shelley

March 7, 2016

Posted in Restaurant Management, Industry & Culture

Here are 10 versions of the classic Old-Fashioned cocktail for you to mix up.

There are certain cocktails that are timeless. When someone orders one, you can picture each ingredient and the exact preparation. You know the glass, the garnish, and whether to shake or stir.

One of these classic cocktails is the Old-Fashioned.

This iconic drink seriously is old fashioned. In fact, it has been around since the early 1800s when the private social club, Pendennis, was credited for making the very first one.

When someone orders an Old-Fashioned, reach for rye whiskey and pour two ounces into a mixing glass. For a sweetener, crush a sugar cube. Then comes two dashes of Angostura Bitters. Finish off the drink with a splash of water and a good stir. Before handing it to your guest, pour the final concoction over a few large ice cubes in a chilled Old Fashioned glass and garnish with an orange peel twist.

Old fashioned cocktail

Since its birth hundreds of years ago, the Old-Fashioned’s components have taken some twists and turns. Some bartenders prefer to use brown sugar, some like to use bourbon instead of rye whiskey, and some  garnish with a lemon peel.

The Old-Fashioned’s recipe also can vary by geography. In Kentucky, bartenders commonly use bourbon, a muddled cherry and orange, and a splash of soda water. In Wisconsin, Old-Fashioneds are often made with brandy.

Although it’s a classic, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t conduct a little cocktail experimentation. With a good idea of the basics, additions and substitutions can make for an exciting new spin on an old favorite for both the mixologist and patron.


Sour-Cherry Old-Fashioned

Sour cherries might be too tart to eat by themselves, but if you muddle them, and combine them with sugar and whiskey, they’re pretty darn delicious. Mix up this new spin on the classic Old-Fashioned created by Mark Bittman, a columnist for the New York Times Magazine.


2 Sour Cherries, stemmed and pitted

1 Orange Peel Strip

1 Sugar Cube

2 or 3 Dashes of Bitters

2 oz Rye or Bourbon


1. Put the cherries, orange peel, and bitters into an Old-Fashioned glass

2. Crush the cherries and sugar with a muddler

3. Fill the glass with ice

4. Add whiskey

5. Stir until drink is cold


mezzana series


House Old-Fashioned

Usually Old-Fashioneds are made with whiskey, but Ryan Lotz of No. 9 Park in Boston likes to mix it up with a cognac variety of brandy for a smooth finish. Ryan mastered the art of bartending after graduating from Boston University. He was on the opening team for Jackson Cannon’s, The Hawthorne, before settling in at No. 9 Park.


3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

3 Dashes Orange Bitters

¼ oz Demerara Syrup

1 ½ oz Paul Beau V.S. Cognac

1 ½ oz Privateer Amber Rum


1. Combine all ingredients

2. Stir over a block of ice

3. Garnish with orange and lemon twists


Aquavit Old-Fashioned  

Dustin Knox, the owner of Central in Portland (OR), holds an Old-Fashioned happy hour where he offers 10 different versions of the cocktail. One of his variations is called the Aquavit Old-Fashioned. He finds that Aquavit’s flavor matches well with honey, Angostura, and orange bitters.


1 tsp Honey Syrup (½ cup honey combined with ¼ cup hot water)

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

1 Dash Grapefruit Bitters

1 Dash Orange Bitters

2 oz Aquavit

Orange and Grapefruit Peels


1. Add honey syrup, bitters, and Aquavit to an Old-Fashioned glass

2. Stir

3. Add a large piece of ice or several large cubes and stir to chill

4. Cut thin swaths of zests from grapefruit and orange for garnish


Salt Fashioned

If you’re looking for something a bit on the saltier side, check out the Experimental Cocktail Club’s Salt Fashioned! For an Autumn-like approach, they add maple syrup and apple bitters to the mix – yum!  


5 Dashes Bar Keep Apple Bitters

1 tsp of Salted Maple Syrup

2 oz Laphroaig Whiskey   

1 Lemon Peel


1. Fill a mixing glass with ice

2. Add apple bitters, salted maple syrup, and whiskey

3. Stir until well chilled

4. Strain into cold rocks glass over ice

5. Garnish with a lemon twist  


Baked Apple Old-Fashioned

The Breslin in New York City has their own version of an Old-Fashioned. They’ve decided to give it an apple twist and they call it the Baked Apple Old-Fashioned.


1 oz Laird’s Applejack

1 oz Overholt Rye

.75 oz Spiced Apple Syrup (combine apple cider, nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise with a dash of demerara sugar)

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


1. Add all ingredients into mixing glass with ice

2. Stir

3. Strain over ice into Old-Fashioned glass

4. Garnish with grated nutmeg


Desert Rose

The husband and wife co-owners (Brooke Williamson & Nick Roberts) at Playa Provisions, encourage people to experiment and have fun with Old-Fashioneds. They recommend starting with a base spirit and inspire people to change ratios, substitute spirits, and trade out syrups and bitters. One of the new Old-Fashioneds featured at their restaurant is the Desert Rose, made with tequila!


1 ½ oz Reposado Tequila

½ oz Mezcal

¼ oz Agave Syrup

1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Ancho Chili Powder

Rosemary Stalk


1. Light rosemary on fire and cover with a glass, allowing smoke to fill it

2. Roll edge of glass in ancho chili powder

3. Add all ingredients to glass

4. Add ice cube

5. Stir


Bacon Old-Fashioned

The average American eats nearly 18 pounds of bacon a year, so why not add it to a cocktail as well? The Patterson House in Nashville creates a new take on an old cocktail by adding this American favorite.


.25 oz Maple Syrup

2 oz Bacon-Infused 4 Roses Bourbon

7 Dashes Coffee Pecan Bitters


1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice

2. Mix

3. Strain into Old-Fashioned glass over one large ice cube


Meemaw’s Fig Jam Old-Fashioned

From the River Bar at Sea Island Resort in Georgia, this Old-Fashioned is a little on the sweeter side – with a heaping spoon of Fig Jam!


1 Generous Bar Spoon of Fig Jam

1 Thinly Sliced Orange Wheel

2.5 oz Basil Hayden Bourbon

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters


1. In a mixing glass, muddle fig jam and orange

2. Add bitters, bourbon, and ice

3. Stir

4. Strain into an Old-Fashioned glass

5. Top with fresh ice and add the peel


Young Laddie 

Joaquin Simo, 2012 Bartender of the Year, has a unique idea for an Old-Fashioned. He uses two forms of grapefruit and suggests that you avoid smoky Scotches and go big on the twists.


2 oz Bruichladdich “Rocks” Scotch whiskey

¼ oz Simple Syrup

1 Dash Peychaud’s Bitters

1 Dash Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters

Orange Twist

Grapefruit Twist  


1. Combine all ingredients (except twists) in an Old-Fashioned glass

2. Add one large chunk of ice and stir until chilled

3. Twist wide piece of orange zest and wide piece of grapefruit zest over drink and drop them in



This is a creation from BevSpot’s own, Tom McNeill. When questioned about whiskey and bourbon – Tom said “I don’t drink that stuff” and proceeded to rattle off the following recipe:


2 oz Aged Rum

¼ oz Simple Syrup

1 Dash Angostura Bitters


Orange twist


1. Muddle orange and cherry in Old-Fashioned glass

2. Add ice, rum, simple syrup, and bitters

3. Stir until chilled

As you can see, the Old-Fashioned has taken some interesting twists and turns since its original creation. It has a rich history with ingredient variations based on region, personal preference, and experimentation. What’s your favorite version of the Old-Fashioned? Do you have your own, unique recipe? Tell us by commenting below.

Want to know more about the Old-Fashioned’s glassware? Check out our Cocktail & Spirit Glassware Guide!


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10 comments so far... Add your thoughts?
  1. Awesome article; thanks Mary! This is my go-to drink to see if a bartender actually knows what they are doing. There is much debate as to when the cherry and orange came into the picture after prohibition creating the ‘modern old fasioned’ as we know it today. Ill have to try out some of these new ones soon.

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