Celebrate World Cocktail Day The Old Fashioned Way

You really should be raising a glass (or several) on the best day of the year to the best selling cocktail of the year, the Old Fashioned.

By: Tiff Christie|May 11,2019

If you’re thinking that World Cocktail Day on Monday is just another excuse to drink … well, you’re half right.

Sure, you could see it as the perfect reason to buy a new fancy shaker or pull out that infusion recipe you’ve wanted to try, but when it comes to cocktails, do you really need an excuse?

We didn’t think so …

But before you gather your friends and dig through your cocktail books (or even this website) for the most obscure cocktail you can find, have a thought for The Old Fashioned.


What to drink

The Old Fashioned is very much a bar staple and the ideal drink to be drinking on World Cocktail Day.

It was recently ranked as the best-selling cocktail for the fifth year in a row – the number one drink in almost 30% of the world’s best bars.

Very much an American classic, the drink is made by muddling a sugar cube with Angostura bitters, then adding bourbon or rye, a few dashes of water, and finished with a citrus rind.

The sweetness makes it smoother than a lot of other whiskey-based drinks, though it remains a strong-jawed, spirit-forward option. Fortunately, with few ingredients, it’s also an easy cocktail to master.

After all, Don Draper from the TV series Mad Men loved them, Ryan Gosling’s character in Crazy, Stupid, Love made his Old Fashioned the traditional way, at his home bar late at night and even the preferred mixed drink of James Bond (in the books, of course) during the action in Thunderball, Diamonds Are Forever and Live And Let Die (he didn’t just drink Martinis).

A little history, baby …

The Old Fashioned is a drink that is as its name describes a very old, established cocktail. Originally, the drink was known simply as the Whiskey Cocktail and it followed the classic cocktail formula as laid down by the first definition of the word in 1806, being a drink composed of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters.

By the 1870s, when liqueurs were more widely available, Whiskey Cocktails began to be ‘improved’ with the addition of Absinthe, Curaçao, Chartreuse and others. This lead to a backlash were drinkers just wanted an ‘Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail’ and the name stuck.


Who exactly invented the drink is unclear, although many have claimed the credit. But by the time of Prohibition, fruit, used as a garnish or muddled, was also added. The drink remained popular until the 1970s when disco and the rise of Vodka took centre stage. It was revived again by bartenders like Dick Bradsell during the recent renaissance.

Simple isn’t always easy

The Old Fashioned is one of six root cocktails upon which all mixology is built, according to the Cocktail Codex, a book from the legendary Death & Co bar team. As they point out, the spirit makes up the core of this drink and as such, the defining flavour.

They recommend that you choose a Bourbon that is distinct without being dominant – they choose Elijah Craig Small Batch but the choice is up to you. Instead of muddling a sugar cube, which won’t dissolve easily, the use of Sugar Syrup, for even distribution is better. Take your syrup game up a notch by using Demerara for a rich viscosity that will draw out the Whiskey’s aged characteristics.

They also believe that adding an additional dash of Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters to the Angostura adds a barely perceptible layer of spice that further emphasises the Bourbon’sn flavour profile. Lastly, they dispense with the muddled fruit and instead chose a simple twist of Orange and Lemon, which are expressed over the drink.

We have included their written recipe below or you can watch The Educated Barfly making their preferred version of the drink

Alternatively, you could watch Done Draper making an Old Fashioned …

Or you can play around with GQ’s variation on an Old Fashioned

The Ideal Old-Fashioned (taken from Cocktail Codex)


2 ounces Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

1 teaspoon Demerara Gum Syrup

2 dash Angostura Bitters

1 dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

Garnish – 1 Orange Twist & 1 lemon Twist


Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into a double Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Express the Orange twist over the drink, then gently rub it around the rim of the glass and place it into the drink. Express the Lemon twist over the glass and then place it into the drink.

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Celebrate World Cocktail Day The Old Fashioned Way

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