Classic cocktails 101 – How to make an old fashioned cocktail, from best bourbon to use to ways to add flavor and uniqueness.

If you’re anything like me, you can appreciate the simple yet sophisticated pleasure of sipping on a perfectly crafted Old Fashioned. This timeless cocktail, with its rich, bold flavors and smooth finish, is truly the epitome of classic elegance. Whether you’re enjoying one by a cozy fireplace or serving it up at a swanky dinner party, there’s just something about an Old Fashioned that makes any occasion feel extra special.

So today, I’m going to share with you my top 5 picks for the best bourbons to use when making this iconic drink, along with a step-by-step guide on how to craft the perfect Old Fashioned. Let’s get started!

When it comes to selecting the ideal bourbon for your Old Fashioned, you’ll want to look for one that strikes a harmonious balance between sweetness, spice, and oakiness. After all, the bourbon is the star of the show in this cocktail, and its distinct flavor profile will shine through in every sip. Without further ado, here are my top 5 bourbon recommendations for creating a truly exceptional Old Fashioned:

Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned

  1. Buffalo Trace: With its rich, complex flavors and a smooth, satisfying finish, Buffalo Trace is a fan favorite when it comes to making an Old Fashioned. The subtle notes of vanilla, toffee, and dark fruit perfectly complement the cocktail’s other ingredients.
  2. Maker’s Mark: This iconic wheated bourbon is known for its sweet, mellow flavor profile, making it a great choice for those who prefer a less spicy Old Fashioned. Maker’s Mark adds a touch of smoothness to the drink that’s hard to resist.
  3. Bulleit Bourbon: If you’re a fan of a spicier, more robust Old Fashioned, look no further than Bulleit Bourbon. Its high rye content gives the cocktail a bold, assertive kick that’s perfect for those who appreciate a little extra heat.
  4. Woodford Reserve: With its well-rounded flavor profile and hints of caramel, chocolate, and spicy oak, Woodford Reserve is a versatile choice that works beautifully in an Old Fashioned. Its rich, complex character adds depth and sophistication to the cocktail.
  5. Knob Creek: This full-bodied, small-batch bourbon boasts a bold, robust flavor that stands up to the other elements of an Old Fashioned. Its notes of toasted nuts, oak, and spice bring a delightful warmth to the drink that’s perfect for sipping on a cool evening.
best bourbon for old fashioned

Now that we’ve got our bourbon lineup sorted, it’s time to dive into the art of making the perfect Old Fashioned cocktail. Here’s a simple, foolproof recipe to get you started:

How to Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail


  • 2 oz bourbon of your choice
  • 1 sugar cube or 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 orange or lemon peel (for garnish)
  • 1 maraschino cherry (optional, for garnish)
  • Ice


  1. In a sturdy rocks glass, place the sugar cube or granulated sugar. Add the Angostura bitters and a splash of water, just enough to help dissolve the sugar.
  2. Using a muddler or the back of a spoon, gently crush the sugar and bitters until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture forms a paste.
  3. Add a large ice cube or a few smaller ones to the glass. Pour the bourbon over the ice.
  4. Stir the cocktail gently for about 20-30 seconds to chill and dilute the drink to your desired strength.
  5. To garnish, express the citrus peel over the drink by holding it over the glass and giving it a good twist to release the oils. Optionally

Smoky Old Fashioned

For those looking to add a twist to the classic Old Fashioned, a Smoky Old Fashioned is the perfect way to go. This tantalizing variant infuses a touch of smokiness to the traditional cocktail, taking the flavor experience to a whole new level. To make a Smoky Old Fashioned, you’ll need a smoky bourbon or rye, such as High West Campfire, or you can opt for a regular bourbon and incorporate a few drops of liquid smoke or a pinch of smoked salt to achieve that desired smoky essence.

Follow the same steps as you would for a classic Old Fashioned, muddling the sugar and bitters, adding the ice, and pouring your smoky bourbon over it. Stir gently to chill and dilute the drink, and then garnish with a twist of orange or lemon peel, expressing the citrus oils over the glass.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can also smoke the glass before preparing the cocktail by placing a smoking wood chip or a sprig of fresh rosemary on a heat-proof surface, lighting it, and placing the glass upside-down over the smoldering material for a few moments to capture the smoke. When you’re ready, simply lift the glass, prepare your cocktail, and savor the depth of flavor that the smoky twist adds to this iconic drink.

So there you have it, folks – the top 5 bourbons for crafting the perfect Old Fashioned, along with a simple guide to help you master this classic cocktail. By selecting the right bourbon to suit your personal taste and following these easy steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a delicious, well-balanced Old Fashioned that’s sure to impress.

Whether you’re sipping solo or sharing this delightful drink with friends, there’s no better way to savor the rich, bold flavors that have made the Old Fashioned a timeless favorite. Cheers to your bourbon adventures and happy mixing!


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