Old Fashioned

Classic rye old fashioned

The old fashioned evolved out of the primordial “whiskey cocktail” of the early 1800s.  The first print record of the word cocktail was in 1806, where the cocktail was defined as a  mix of “spirits, sugar, water, and bitters.” During this period bar patrons typically requested a cocktail by the spirit, for example a “brandy cocktail” or a “gin cocktail.”

It’s not clear when the whiskey cocktail died and the old fashioned was born. As Robert Simonson writes in The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail“no law was ever passed declaring the Whiskey Cocktail dead and the Old-Fashioned its rightful successor, of course. And the difference between the two was also significant enough that, for a long while, cocktail books contained separate recipes for both drinks.” In his book, Mr. Simonson also debunks the claim that Pendennis Club invented the drink.

As far as most mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts are concerned, the cocktail fell into a serious state of disrepair between the 1920s and the 1980s when bartenders began muddling everything in their fruit trays into the drink and topping it with a half gallon of soda water… or 7-up. Fortunately, the drink’s fortunes were reversed by mixologists who simplified the recipe, yanking the fruit, and restoring it.

There are millions of ways to create an old fashioned. Keep tinkering to find your favorite recipe! Our attempt is below.

Old Fashioned Cocktail Picture


  • 1.5 oz Bulleit Rye
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • .5 oz simple syrup
  • Orange peel


Old Fashioned Glass


  1. In your old fashioned glass, muddle the orange peel with your bitters, simple syrup, and bitters.
  2. Add one large ice cube.
  3. Add your whiskey.
  4. Stir for 20 seconds
  5. Serve

Sichuan Old Fashioned

A few years ago we traveled to Chengudu, the capital of China’s Sichuan (四川) province. Sichuan is famous world over for their incredibly spicy food, and especially for their numbing peppercorns. Despite their name, the Sichuan peppercorn are not that closely related to the chili pepper which often accompanies it, or to the chili pepper. They’re actually part of the citrus family. Because of their familial relationship, Sichuan peppercorns are vulnerable to  citrus canker, a disease which could spread to other citrus trees. Because of this potential threat to Florida, they were banned in the US until 2005. Today they’re available in some Asian grocery stores, or from Amazon, though the quality is inconsistent. The best peppercorns we’ve found in the US are from San Francisco Herb Company.

Sichuan peppers are not that spicy.  Their signature molecule, hydroxy alpha sanshool, is believed to cause the numbing sensation associated with eating the peppercorn. The numbing isn’t directly intensely spicy, but it does stack with other peppers, making Chengdu’s hot pot wicked.

The Sichuan old fashioned adds a little Sichuan infused simple syrup to impart a subtle, numbing spice.


  • 1.5 oz Russell’s reserve 10 year bourbon
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters  
  • .5 oz Sichuan infused simple syrup
  • Orange peel


Old Fashioned Glass


10 minutes


  1. Create the Sichuan infused simple syrup by following the guide here.
  2. In your old fashioned glass, muddle the orange peel with your bitters, simple syrup, and bitters.
  3. Add one large ice cube.
  4. Add your whiskey.
  5. Stir.
  6. Serve.
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