The Perfect Old Fashioned

November 23, 2013

The Old Fashioned is, without a doubt, the best cocktail a man can drink. However, it is a true tragedy that many bartenders out there—in my experience—just don’t know how to make a good one.

Through hours of research and experimentation, I have developed the ability to concoct an Old Fashioned superior to any that a bartender has ever made for me. It’s Saturday, which means many of you might be enjoying a drink or two tonight. For your sake, I’d like to teach you how:

  1. You need an Old Fashioned glass (rocks glass, etc.) They fit well in the hand, with straight vertical sides and a thick, solid bottom. Glass, preferably. Clear, and decorated minimally.
  2. Sugar in the form of simple syrup. This is key. I know that it looks cooler to muddle a sugar cube like Ryan Gosling does in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but the sugar won’t dissolve well into the drink unless you spend a great deal of time and effort getting it to. Just a splash of simple syrup is best. And please, not too much.
  3. A few dashes of bitters. It has to be Angostura bitters. It always has been and always needs to be. They’re cheap and will last forever. Just a few dashes—it’s impossible to really measure this. I usually give it three to four gentle shakes and call it a day.
  4. Swirl the mixture. Pick up the glass and just move it around to let the syrup and bitters mix a little. Don’t get complicated here.
  5. Add whiskey. For a real Old Fashioned, it has to be bourbon or rye whiskey. Jack Daniel’s (the basic 80 proof version) always works for me, and is a good, affordable place to start. Lately, I’ve taken fancy to Old Weller Antique (107 proof), as it’s the closest thing I can buy locally to the elite Pappy Van Winkle ( it’s the same juice, just aged a few years less.Two ounces is the maximum you need.  One and one-half might be better, but is harder to measure. Remember, a typical shot glass is one ounce, so you can measure with one of those if necessary. Just pour it into the glass. Repeat step four again to let it settle.
  6. Add ice. I like about four cubes, but everyone’s preferences will be different. Weller is a higher proof, so the dilution of ice helps with heavier spirits, and I also prefer a cooler temperature.
  7. Add an orange twist. Just a twist, not a chunk of fruit; take a knife or vegetable peeler and get a decent piece of the peel, just barely hitting the actual fruit (you want some oils, but not juice.) Squeeze it into the glass, and then toss it in to garnish. No cherry, no lemon, for the love of goodness.
  8. *Update: ** If you’re using a high proof spirit, you might do yourself a favor and add the slightest bit of cool water to taste. Since switching to 107 proof, I’ve found that adding what looks like a teaspoon or two of water helps.  (12/7/2013)
  9. Let it sit for a minute or two. 
  10. Sip it slowly. Enjoy.

This will require experimentation, as everyone’s palates are different. This method is foolproof for me, and has received my girlfriend’s seal of approval many times as well. Go give it a try and tell me how it works for you.