This is the drink that many people “test” a new bar or bartender with, but it’s also very easy to make home. It’s a deceptively simple classic, featuring a few basic ingredients and producing one of the most perfect cocktails on the planet when made correctly. The key is the orange peel: you need a hefty chunk of it, it needs to be as pith-free as possible, and you need to muddle the heck out of it to really get those essential oils out and into the drink. In my opinion: if your Old Fashioned isn’t cloudy, you haven’t muddled enough.
You can make this drink with sugar instead of simple syrup, but you’ll have to muddle and stir for a really long time to get the sugar fully dissolved. If you do that, cut the sugar to one teaspoon (or one cube).
Some people like a splash of water or seltzer in their Old Fashioned. I’m not one of those people, but if that’s your thing, go for it. There’s also a whole school of thought that an Old Fashioned should have muddled fruit in it (typically orange slices and maraschino cherries). I’m not a fan of this variant at all – I think the fruit overshadows the simple, beautiful interaction of the whiskey and the bitters – but it’s apparently very popular in some regions. The key, as always, is to drink what you like.
Muddle orange peel, bitters, and simple syrup in a rocks glass. Add bourbon and ice, stir, and serve.
This article is a modified and enhanced version of a post that ran on my nightly cocktail blog, DrinkShouts. Liquors in parentheses are what I used when I made this recipe, and are included as suggestions.