The Old Fashioned: Tinkering with a classic cocktail.

Lot 40 Rye Old Fashioned

The Original Cocktail

The “old fashioned” is probably the most classic cocktail there is – and has always been one of my favourites.  There are a few reasons this drink has stood the test of time, and why I like it so much:

  • Easy to make
  • Easy (and fun) to tinker with
  • Stiff – but smooth (that’s what she said)!

So what exactly is an old fashioned?  Technically it’s any cocktail that mixes a base spirit (typically rye or bourbon), with bitters and a sweetener.  The most common recipe would be:

  • 2 oz Bourbon/Rye
  • 2-4 Dashes bitters
  • 0.25-0.5 oz Simple syrup (or a sugar cube)

Once the drink is mixed with ice, you give it a citrus twist(usually orange) for some extra flavour, and more importantly an unbelievable aromatic experience.  Some people also add a dash of water – or top it off with club soda, however I prefer it with neither.

When I am feeling fancy, I’ll mix the drink in a mixing glass, with ice, then strain it into a rocks glass over a large ice cube (like in the top image).  Other times (most often) I will just make the drink in a glass with ice cubes.  It’s not as pretty, and gets slightly more diluted, but tastes just as good, and is a lot quicker.

Rye, Bourbon or something else?

Now that you know how easy it is to make the Old Fashioned, the fun part is experimenting with different variations – depending on your preference.  Are you more of a Rum gal?  No problem.  Swap out the Whiskey for a nice dark rum. The base spirit isn’t the only thing you can toy with either.  When I make a Rum old Fashioned, I like to to swap the simple syrup for a demerra syrup.  You can also play around with the bitters and citrus too!

Here is a variation of a Rum Old Fashioned I made:

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Following the “classic” recipe from above (a base spirit, bitters and a sweetener) I made a few substitutions.  Here is what I used:

  • 2.5 Oz Diplomatico Exclusiva Rum*
  • 3 Dashes Abiding Citizen Manitoba Aromatic Bitters (local company)
  • 0.25 oz 100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup

*If you like Rum, and haven’t tried the “Diplomatico Exclusiva” – I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s great in a spirit forward cocktail like an old fashioned, but also a great sipper.

Rye, Bourbon, Rum, Mezcal – Doesn’t matter – but use the good stuff!

In most cocktails, or if you are having a rum and coke, you won’t notice much of a difference between your “Top Shelf” stuff vs the cheap stuff.  This is not one of those.  Certain cocktails deserve the good stuff and the Old Fashioned is a prime example.  If you have a nice Rye/Bourbon or Rum, or whatever your favourite poison is – treat yourself!  The Old Fashioned is meant to showcase whatever base spirit you are using, so find one you enjoy sipping on its own, and see how the bitters and syrup can help make it pop.  I was lucky enough to score a few bottles of Weller Antique a few months ago, and although it is not the most expensive bourbon around (in fact it’s actually pretty cheap), it is rare/hard to find.  I was able to get my bottles for under $40 Canadian, however they resell for over $200 USD in a lot of places.  Weller Antique is a wheated bourbon, and higher proof (107), although when you sip it, it’s very smooth, you wouldn’t think it’s 53.5% ABV.  I had mostly been sipping my bottle neat, however I decided to finish off the bottle and treat myself.
Weller Antique Bourbon Old Fashioned

As usual, I mixed things up a little bit when I made this drink.  Here is what I used:

  • 2.5 oz Weller Antique Bourbon
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
  • 0.5 Oz Home Made Demerra Syrup (2 Parts Demerra to 1 part water)
  • Orange Zest & Peel in glass*

*When in season, I really like to use a grapefruit instead of an orange.

I made this one in the glass.  It doesn’t look as pretty without the big ice cube, but I assure you it tasted just as good!

Anyways, it’s the weekend!  Hopefully this inspires a few of you to try making your own at home.  Aside from a great tasting drink, and a bit of a buzz you are sure to get, if you can master the art of a good old fashioned, you can also save yourself some $$$ by not having to order them at the bar…this is a personal finance website after all 🙂

In the comments, let me know your favourite Old Fashioned recipe!



8 thoughts on “The Old Fashioned: Tinkering with a classic cocktail.”

  1. Would you believe I actually have just enough 107 left for a drink! I also have the Diplomatico, it says Reserva, but has a different label than yours. It’s orange, and I don’t see it in our liquor store online. A buddy who worked in Venezuela bought it for me years ago. I’ve never tried a Rum Old Fashioned. Might have to go shopping for bitters though. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to try the Bar Chef Toasted Old Fashioned next time you’re in Ont.


  2. Diplomatico has a few different bottles.

    The Reserva (orange bottle) is the base line/cheaper one (and still good)
    The Exclusiva Reserva, is the more expensive, smoother, absolutely fuckin delicious one
    They also have “Ambassador” which is 300+ a bottle, which I haven’t tried yet.

    I like to use the Reserva in cocktails (and sip sometimes), but the Exlcusiva, is exclusively for sipping for me 😉 So Delicious.

    I haven’t heard of the Bar Chef Old Fashioned (tho in my experience, making them with bitters/home made syrups is always better then a pre mixed one). That said, if you say it’s good, maybe ill order one. I am not in ONT very often, but I have an LCBO account, and my cousin who drives in brings me some stuff sometimes 🙂


  3. Well, full disclosure, my brother-in-law is part owner in the Bar Chef cocktail bar in TO. The Toasted Old Fashioned is a boutique bottled cocktail made with their hand crafted bitters. It is fricken good though, and without bias the cocktail bar makes amazing drinks. I’d send you a comp bottle, but it’s ridiculous that we can’t ship booze to other provinces. My other favorite Rum would be Ron Zacapa 23, that’s a nice sipper.


    1. Well if you ever want to ship a comp bottle, I can give you my cousins address in Ontario 😛

      I have actually heard good things about the Bar Chef Cocktail bar – and would love to check it out one day!

      I haven’ treid the Zacapa 23, but have heard good things as well.


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