The History of the Old Fashioned Cocktail

Photo by Ferals Studio


To help us kick off cocktail week, we wanted to start with some classics. Including what is considered one of the ultimate cocktail mainstays of all-time. The Old Fashioned. It’s a cocktail that we’ve loved ever since we started imbibing, and remains our go-to.

The Old Fashioned cocktail is a classic cocktail that has been enjoyed for well over a century. It is made with bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus. The Old Fashioned has been around since the late 1800s and is one of the oldest cocktails still in use today.

The origin of the Old Fashioned is somewhat unclear, but it is generally believed to have been created in the late 1800s in the United States. The cocktail is said to have been first made in Louisville, Kentucky, where it was originally called the “Whiskey Cocktail.” At the time, the cocktail was made with sugar, bitters, water, and whiskey.


“The ‘Whiskey Cocktail’ was an American drink for American drinkers, and was even provided as official provisions to Union soldiers during the Civil War.”


Over time, the cocktail evolved and became more popular. Bartenders began to add different ingredients to the recipe, such as citrus and soda water, to create a more complex flavor. In the 1930s and 1940s, the Old Fashioned became a popular drink among Hollywood celebrities, who would order it at the swanky bars and nightclubs of the time.

Photo by Daniel Herron

Despite its long history, the Old Fashioned fell out of favor in the 1960s and 1970s as more complex cocktails became popular. However, it experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s, when bartenders began to focus on creating classic cocktails with a modern twist.

One reason for the Old Fashioned’s enduring popularity is its simplicity. Unlike many modern cocktails, which can be complicated and difficult to make, the Old Fashioned requires only a few ingredients and is easy to prepare. Additionally, its classic flavor profile appeals to a wide range of people, from whiskey connoisseurs to casual drinkers.

Another reason for the Old Fashioned’s popularity is its sheer versatility. The cocktail can be made with a variety of different whiskeys, such as bourbon, rye, or even scotch, allowing bartenders to customize the drink to suit their customers’ tastes. It can also be adapted to suit different seasons and occasions, with ingredients like maple syrup, apple cider, and a range of new and exciting bitters.

All in all, Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail with a rich history and enduring popularity. Its simplicity and versatility make it a favorite among bartenders and drinkers alike, and its timeless flavor profile ensures that it will remain a staple of cocktail menus for many years to come. Is it a drink you’ve enjoyed for years, or just recently started exploring?


Photo by Adam Jaime


Now, for the recipe.

Our favorite minor twist on the Old Fashioned is to swap the sugar cube out for maple syrup, which brings a bit of extra smokiness and smoothness to the drink.


Maple Old Fashioned


  • 2 oz Bourbon or Rye Whiskey
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel
  • Ice
  • Maraschino (or the much better Amarena) cherry optional 


  1. In an Old Fashioned glass, combine the maple syrup and bitters.
  2. Add a large ice cube to the glass.
  3. Pour in the whiskey and stir until well combined.
  4. Express the oils from the orange peel over the drink and drop it into the glass.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

Note: You can also experiment with different types of bitters or garnishes to create your own unique variation of the classic Old Fashioned.

Photo by Allan Francis