How to Make the Perfect Old Fashioned, from Single Serve to Party Portions

How to Make the Perfect Old Fashioned, from Single Serve to Party Portions

Whiskey fans and newbies alike are often joined in their mutual love for the old fashioned cocktail. It’s a classic for a reason, right? If you’ve ever wondered what the best way to make this cocktail is, allow us to help. The team at Woodford Reserve has shared a couple of recipes and tips that’ll have you making the perfect bourbon cocktail in no time.

Woodford Reserve and Brown Forman brand ambassador Andy Tsai and Linus Schaxmann held a workshop on how to master the perfect old fashioned, and in this session, the pair explained some insider hacks.

“Of course, with the old fashioned, it’s all about those simplistic flavours surrounding the bourbon,” Tsai shared in the workshop.

“Letting the bourbon in shine and letting the bourbon be the champion of the drink. Outside of the bourbon itself, that you use, you’ve got orange, orange rind, a little bit of bitters and a little bit of sugar. That combination is going to come through and it’s a really beautiful way to enjoy the spirit almost uninterrupted. With a little bit of sweetness and a little bit of citrus.”

Tips on mastering the cocktail

Old fashioned recipe
Old fashioned recipe tips. Getty

Get your orange peel right

The garnish in an old fashioned recipe is a key part of the flavour combination, so you want to give it a little love. Tsai explained that using a potato peeler is a great way to achieve a neat orange peel garnish.

He explained that you should use the peeler on the edge of the orange to trim yourself a nice slice of peel.

“I also like to trim off the pith on the other side just because it can add a little bit of bitterness but again, personal choice, completely up to you if you do that,” he said.

Then, when it comes to using the peel as a garnish – and the end of the cocktail building process – Tsai explained you want to make sure you’re using the peel side (not the pith) on the glass.

“Hold it [the garnish] facing out over the top of the glass you want to give it a nice big squeeze. And all that citrus is just going to spray all over the glass,” he said.

After giving it a squeeze, run the peel over the edge of the glass to bring those oils into the experience, before popping the garnish into the glass.

Use a large, smooth mixing glass

While your glass of choice is not the most important element at play, Tsai did explain that it’s best if you “don’t use something with sort of bevelled or jagged edges [as a mixing glass]. [Choose] something, at least, that’s very smooth because you’re going to need to stir it up”.

If you don’t have a jigger or shot glass, use a teaspoon

Measuring portions is important here, so it’s best practice to use a jigger or shot glass to get a perfect pour.

But Tsai explained that when working from home, you can reach for a teaspoon instead.

Speaking about sugar syrup specifically, he shared that “I generally find that around 7.5 ml mark is really perfect for this. So, if you don’t have one of these measuring jiggers, a perfect way to do it is a little teaspoon okay or a bar spoon if you have one. We’ll just fill up that bar spoon and just dump it in”.

On the topic of sugar, Tsai also mentioned it is always a good idea to ask how sweet guests like their old fashioned cocktail. Between 5 and 7 ml will be on the dry side, he shared.

The more ice, the better

“Do not be shy with the ice,” Tsai explained.

“The more you have, the more ice you have, the longer it stays together; the colder the drink will get, and your dilution is gonna work way better than if you just have a couple of cubes in the bottom of the glass.”

In essence, he said that when making an old fashioned the worst thing you can do is leave it sitting with a couple of ice cubes and letting the mixture dilute.

Give the drink a solid stir

There’s an art to stirring an old fashioned correctly. Tsai explained that he likes to stir his 20 times one way and then 20 times the other way.

Then, you’re ready to strain your cocktail into a glass with a fresh serve of ice (again, to avoid extra dilution).

If you don’t have a strainer, you can simply stir your cocktail mix in the glass you’re going to serve it in.

You can use all kinds of bitters

While Angostura Bitters is what you’ll see used most commonly, there’s an endless list of options here and you can certainly be a little creative.

Tsai shared, “I love chocolate bitters. Black walnut bitters is another one I go for or orange bitters!”

“And aromatic bitters are going to have that similar kind of, you know, cinnamon, nutmeg, those kind of Christmasy flavours…”

Woodford Reserve old fashioned recipes

Now that you know how to get the cocktail right, here are a couple of recipes that will help you perfect the process.

Classic old fashioned recipe

What you’ll need:


  1. Add ingredients to a mixing glass.
  2. Stir all ingredients in mixing glass, strain over ice-filled glass.
  3. Garnish with orange peel.

Woodford Reserve old fashioned ‘bottled’ batch recipe

Another Woodford Reserve host featured in the masterclass, Linus Schaxmann, explained that for big events, he likes to whip up a pre-made bottle of old fashioned he can share with loved ones.

“Every Christmas I make an old fashioned in this bottle, put it in the fridge… [And] On Christmas Day, we crack it open and get going,” he shared.

What you’ll need:

  • 75mls Sugar Syrup (1:1 Ratio)
  • 20 Dashes Woodford Reserve Aromatic Bitters
  • 450mls Woodford Reserve
  • 75mls Water


  1. In an empty Woodford Reserve bottle add the Woodford Reserve, sugar syrup, water and bitters.
  2. Add cork and shake to mix all the ingredients through.
  3. Shake again before serving and pour 60mls over ice in a large ‘double rocks’ glass or tumbler.
  4. Garnish with orange zest.

Want more advice? Check out our write up on why adding salt to your old fashioned recipe is a genius move.

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