Old Fashioned Cocktail

Episode 2 of Two Shots One Take! Jimmy Wong learns me how to make an Old Fashioned cocktail and I bullshit him about how to build a bar in your garage and also Pangaea jokes happen.

Since we were making do in a “garage” we didn’t have sugar cubes, or even the simple syrup that some bartenders use. We used agave nectar. Originally (the real “old fashioned” Old Fashioned) a sugar cube was dissolved with some bitters, then bourbon and ice added. You can do it that way if you prefer, and if you have sugar cubes. Using simple syrup makes it easier to make a pitcher of these, for your Mad Men-watching party.


Old Fashioned Cocktail

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4.6 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Yield: 1 1x


  • 11.5 ounces bourbon
  • 1 sugar cube or teaspoon simple syrup (or agave nectar)
  • Dash or two Angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Orange peel twist


  1. If you have a sugar cube, drop that in the glass with the bitters and mash it around to dissolve it. Then add the bourbon and stir.
  2. Otherwise, combine the bourbon, syrup, and bitters in a glass. Stir.
  3. Add ice and stir again.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange peel, never a maraschino cherry. That’s for chicks.

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  1. Great Stone Face on September 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

    When I saw the sugar, orange peel, etc., I flash-backed to the January 2011 episode of Hilah Cooking on “How to Make Punch.” Instead of simple syrup and squeezed orange peel, how about making an oleo saccharum (sweet oil)? Then, you’d pour in the whiskey (or the other way around), drop in the bitters and ice, and stir.

    Are there Old-Fashioned recipes using the method I suggest? It’d give me another use for my muddler. Oh, by the way, nice use of the appropriate “Old-Fashioned” glass.

    • Hilah on September 11, 2013 at 9:10 am

      That would be a great way to make large batches of this, I bet! Great thinking. I’m going to try that next party we have, actually.

  2. Diane on September 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I’m totally loving this series! (Go figure.)

    • Hilah on September 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Of course you are! You will like the next drink, too, I think. 🙂

  3. The Other Randy on September 12, 2013 at 9:45 am

    The Old-Fashioned is one of the absolute greatest classic cocktails ever. Yet it’s the one that is, more often than not, totally screwed up by your average bartender. If you walk into a bar and see that they use soda guns, order a beer and then go home and make your Old-Fashioned yourself. You’ll get a much better drink that way. And with this episode, there’s no excuse for not knowing how to make one.

    Muddling the orange peel along with the sugar cube or simple syrup*, makes for a much more interesting drink in my opinion. Some folks object to this, feeling that it injects bitterness and pulp from the orange peel. But I find that if you use a vegetable peeler and are careful to take only a very thin swath from the orange, there’s next to no pith and therefore no issues with bitterness and pulp. Given the origin of the Old-Fashioned’s name, one could say that a marked citrus component is a requirement. The original cocktail (first mentioned in 1806) was defined as containing 1) a base liquor 2) citrus juice 3) sugar and 4) bitters. So the original cocktails were the gin cocktail, the whiskey cocktail, etc. The Old-Fashioned is first mentioned in 1880, after a slew of new mixed drinks also called cocktails had been invented and people decided they wanted a cocktail made in the “old-fashioned way”. So the Old-Fashioned really is the original whiskey cocktail.

    But I try not to be a purist about anything (unless nobody else is being one and there’s a marked need for some purism). The last old-fashioned I made was anything but traditional: muddle an orange peel in the simple syrup, add ice and bacon-infused bourbon and finally add two dashes of chocolate bitters. Don Draper might not approve, but orange, bacon, bourbon and chocolate go really well together.

    * – I’m otherwise a big fan of agave nectar, but it just didn’t taste right in any of the cocktails I’ve tried it in. It ought to have a symbiotic relationship with tequila, but I’ve never tried that combo.

    • Hilah on September 12, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      I’m so glad you’re back, Randy! I love all your cocktail knowledge. 🙂
      GreatStoneFace mentioned earlier the idea to do an oleo saccharum, which is exactly what you have described! We can’t wait to try this way now, seeing as how Chris and I both are lovers of whiskeys and bourbons and muddling things.
      You have also inspired me to try some of these “new-fangled” flavored bitters. I’ve only ever used Angostura. But, actually, perhaps these flavored bitters are not so “new-fangled” after all…?
      Oh man, now I have to go look up the origin of “new-fangled”.

  4. The Other Randy on September 12, 2013 at 11:33 am

    As Jimmy mentions, the amount of bitters that comes out in one shake of the bottle varies from brand to brand and sometimes from bottle to bottle of the same brand. Angastura seems to be the most consistent to me, but it falls short of what a dash is actually defined as: 1/8 of a teaspoon. Bed, Bath and Beyond sells a set of 3 measuring spoons that measure a dash, a pinch and a smidgen. I never use mine, but it gave me a visual of what a dash is. So with Angastura, I generally add one more “dash” than what a recipe calls for. Fee Brothers actually pours closer to a true dash. In an Old-Fashioned, I prefer their Aromatic bitters over Angastura. But their orange bitters (an essential for a truly great Martini) comes in fourth place after Regan’s, Angastura, and The Bitter Truth.

  5. The Other Randy on September 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Thank you for all of your kind words!!!

    I’ve never heard of oleo saccharum (sounds like some unholy alliance of margarine and artificial sweetener 🙂 ). Is it the same as fat washing? Using the fat washing technique, bacon-infused rum is made by heating bacon fat until melted, which is then stirred into the bourbon (in a wide-mouth jar), letting the mixture cool for an hour and then putting the jar into the freezer overnight. The next day, crack the hockey puck of fat that has formed on the top, remove the big chunks and then fine-strain the remaining liquid into a bottle.

    I suspect that chocolate bitters (along with rhubarb, grapefruit and a slew of tohers, but there’s a big chance I’m wrong) are a relatively recent invention, but orange bitters actually date back to the 1800s. Fee Brothers, which was founded in 1864, has evidently been making them ever since. Other brands died in the 1960s. It’s only been over the past five or so years that Regan’s, Angastura and The Bitter Truth, among others, have come on the market. Before then, a lot of people were evidently making DIY orange bitters by simply muddling orange peels in Angastura aromatic bitters. Gary “The Joy of Mixology” Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6 is based on a recipe from the 1800s he found and tweaked through 5 iterations as a DIY project before he licensed the recipe for commercial manufacture.

    • Hilah on September 13, 2013 at 10:26 am

      I think it means “sweet oil” or something similar in Latin. It’s basically just muddling citrus rinds with sugar to get a citrus-oil infused sugar mixture, that you can then add booze to. The Tipsy Texan showed me the technique in the punch video from a couple years ago. I’m not sure if it is still technically “oleo saccharum” if it’s mint leaves or something else besides citrus rind, but it seems like any plant matter with lots of essential oils would work well with the method.

      I wonder how hard it is to make your own bitters. Have you ever tried it?

      • The Other Randy on September 13, 2013 at 11:33 am

        I had no idea that muddling stuff in sugar had such a highfalutin name. I’ve always assumed that muddling sugar and citrus was simply standard, non-negotiable, operating procedure for making certain cocktails (adding mint for mojitos and caipirinhas and bitters for Old-Fashioneds).

        Making bitters was supposed to be my next DIY project (my latest was homemade tonic (or quinine) syrup). The actual process of making bitters doesn’t seem at all difficult. It’s the sourcing of the ingredients and the long wait until they’re ready that worries me. Plus the only recipes I’ve found are from people who I’m not familiar with, so I’m undecided as to which recipe to follow. I may try homemade orgeat and falernum, first. Now, if Jeffrey Morgenthaler ever posts a bitters recipe, I’ll be on it in a flash. I’ve followed his recipes for grenadine, tonic syrup and ginger beer and all are the best I’ve ever tasted.

  6. Sara on September 13, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I made this last night for my hunnie, complete with the agave nector and lemon bitters. Althought, I think I may have poured a little more than 1.5 ounces whiskey…when my hunnie took his first sip his eyes went real wide. Gotta keep him on his toes, I guess!

    • Hilah on September 13, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Haha! That’s great, Sara. The interesting thing about this is that even though it is pretty much straight booze, it’s still tasty. Glad you tried it!

  7. Pulse on July 7, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    “Since we were making do in a “garage” we didn’t have sugar cubes, or even the simple syrup that some bartenders use. We used agave nectar.”

    Way late comment guy says: I love the irony of this statement.

    • Hilah on July 8, 2016 at 6:59 am

      Hahaha! 🙂

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