How to Make an Old Fashioned That Will Impress Your Friends

An old fashioned is one of the simplest cocktails you can make at home, but it has the potential to wow your friends and family in a way that no other drink can. Here are some tips on how to make an old fashioned that will impress your friends and family, as well as how to serve it correctly and professionally.

Gather Tools

You’ll need: Wood chips; ice; water; whisky; sugar cubes or simple syrup. You can make a single serving of an old fashioned by muddling one sugar cube in a rocks glass and topping it with two ounces of whisky, but for something more impressive, you can infuse your own liquor.

In fact, making your own is incredibly easy—just let a bottle of bourbon or rye sit in some used wood chips (from smoking meat or cigars) for at least a week before using them in your drink. The actual infusion time doesn’t really matter—you just want enough time for some of the alcohol’s flavour to be absorbed into the wood. You should probably avoid soaking brand new wood or wood that smells good on its own since neither impart very good flavours.

Begin Ice Cubes

To begin, pour three ice cubes into a rocks glass or other small cup. The smaller size of these glasses allows for more focused attention and detail—but don’t let their diminutive stature fool you.

An ice cube is one of your best assets in creating a great cocktail. One thing to note: Because you want your drink chilled but not watered down, it’s important that ice cubes are made from distilled water and poured directly into glasses (or at least handled by a clean towel). Regular tap water has extra minerals that will melt into your drink and add dilution.

Start with Syrup

Not everyone agrees on what makes a proper old fashioned, but there’s one key element that holds up across all old fashioned lovers: The syrup. While many recipes call for a simple 2-to-1 ratio of ice to whiskey (with bitters, of course), be sure to doctor your cocktail with quality cane syrup before diluting it further with water or soda.

Grade B is just fine; don’t waste your money on fancy handcrafted stuff—it’ll just get watered down. Not everyone agrees on what makes a proper old fashioned, but there’s one key element that holds up across all old fashioned lovers: The syrup.

Add Bitters

While there are plenty of ways to make great cocktails, one of the key ingredients is bitters. Bitters add balance and depth and can help a cocktail work harmoniously. If you’re making an old fashioned, think about adding a dash or two of bitters.

While Angostura bitters may be your first thought, there are also many other options like orange bitters, chocolate bitters, cherry-vanilla flavored rum (try it in place of whiskey for something different), or peach-mango vanilla blend if you’re looking for something on sweeter side. If you aren’t sure where to start, try Fee Brothers and their selection of citrus inspired flavors.

Stir in your spirit

To make a highball glass of old fashioned, you’ll need two parts bourbon, one part water or ice cubes and a splash of bitters. The great thing about using bitters is that they are not nearly as strong as other types of alcohol so you can increase your alcohol-to-bitters ratio without increasing its intensity.

Add in your ice and stir everything together with your spoon (or swizzle stick if you have one). Garnish with an orange slice and drink up!

Garnish Wisely

Sure, you can buy a bottle of Angostura bitters and just sprinkle it on top. Or, you can take a tip from bartender Larry Korman and use orange peel instead. The original recipe calls for a strip of dried orange peel, which is long gone. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to recreate that sweet-and-bitter taste with a nice twist of orange peel.

It adds some visual flair as well! Why not make your favorite cocktail stand out from everyone else’s? There are plenty of ways to garnish your drink; try different things until you find what works best for you. When in doubt, though, we recommend keeping it simple: a little bit of citrus zest goes a long way. Just don’t let all those fancy ingredients distract you from actually enjoying your drink!
This guide was written by Daniel Clarke of Bartender Atlas, where he shares fun and educational articles about cocktails, bartending tips, and home bar setup ideas. He loves exploring all kinds of drinks – old classics and new creations alike – and experimenting behind his own home bar (he has enough glasses to fill up his entire bookcase).

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