Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned: Top Picks

I love classic cocktails, and the Old Fashioned is a favorite. Its mix of sweet, bitter, and bourbon flavors takes me back to a time of elegance. Each sip is a trip, letting me enjoy the art of mixology and the history behind this drink.

We’re going to dive into bourbon and find the best for an Old Fashioned. We’ll look at classic recipes and new, innovative ones. Our goal is to find the perfect bourbon for this classic cocktail.

Key Takeaways

  • Discover the history and tradition behind the classic Old Fashioned cocktail
  • Learn the key factors to consider when selecting the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned
  • Explore top-shelf, craft, and small-batch bourbon expressions that will take your Old Fashioned to new heights
  • Uncover mixology tips and tricks to craft the perfect Old Fashioned every time
  • Explore variations on the Old Fashioned and other whiskey-based cocktails to broaden your horizons

The Classic Old Fashioned

The old fashioned cocktail is a timeless classic. It has a rich history and tradition in bartending. It started in the early 19th century and has become a beloved classic cocktail worldwide.

History and Tradition

The first mention of the old fashioned cocktail was in the early 1800s. Back then, “cocktail” meant a mix of spirits, bitters, water, and sugar. The recipe has stayed the same, with bourbon or rye whiskey, Angostura bitters, and sugar or simple syrup as main ingredients.

This cocktail’s lasting popularity shows its timeless appeal. Its simple yet sophisticated taste has made it a favorite globally. Bartenders and fans love to make their own version of this classic.

The Perfect Balance

The old fashioned’s charm comes from its balanced flavors. Bourbon or rye whiskey’s caramel and vanilla mix with the bitter Angostura bitters and sweet sugar or simple syrup. Together, they create a cocktail that’s both sophisticated and easy to enjoy.

Enjoying an old fashioned can be a quiet evening or part of a big party. It’s a classic cocktail that shows the lasting power of history and tradition. Its timeless taste and perfect balance make it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts.

“The old fashioned is the granddaddy of them all. It’s the classic cocktail that every bartender should know how to make properly.”

– Jim Meehan, renowned bartender and author

Selecting the Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Creating the perfect Old Fashioned begins with picking the right bourbon whiskey. When choosing the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned, think about a few important things. These factors can greatly affect the taste of your drink.

Proof and Alcohol Content

The bourbon’s proof or alcohol level is key. Bourbon whiskeys usually range from 80 to 130 proof. For an Old Fashioned, aim for something around 100-110 proof. This level balances the sweetness of the drink and gives a richer taste.

Flavor Profile

What the bourbon whiskey tastes like is also vital. Choose bourbons with flavors of caramel, vanilla, oak, and a hint of sweetness. These tastes work well with the bitters and sugar syrup in an Old Fashioned, making a perfect mix.


How long the bourbon has aged is important too. Bourbons aged for at least 4-6 years in oak barrels have a deeper, more complex taste. This makes them great for an Old Fashioned.

Keep these factors in mind and pick a top-notch bourbon whiskey that fits your taste. This way, you’ll make the best Old Fashioned cocktail.

Top Shelf Bourbon Picks

Choosing the right bourbon can elevate your Old Fashioned. Top-shelf bourbons add depth, complexity, and sophistication. Let’s look at some top picks for an unforgettable Old Fashioned.

Maker’s Mark is a top choice for an Old Fashioned. It’s known for its smooth taste with caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice. Its rich mouthfeel blends well with the Old Fashioned, creating a perfect mix of flavors.

Woodford Reserve is another great option. It’s famous for its quality and detail. With its mix of oak, fruit, and spice, it adds elegance to the Old Fashioned.

If you want a bourbon with more punch, Wild Turkey 101 is perfect. It has a strong, full flavor that matches well with the Old Fashioned. This bourbon makes the cocktail bold and assertive.

Knob Creek is also a top pick. It’s known for its deep flavors like oak, caramel, and a touch of smoke. These flavors work great with the Old Fashioned.

The best bourbon for an Old Fashioned depends on what you like. Whether you prefer smooth or strong bourbon, these top picks will enhance your experience.

Craft and Small Batch Bourbons

In the world of bourbon, craft and small-batch distilleries stand out. They offer whiskey lovers a wide range of unique tastes. These spirits are made with great care, bringing new and exciting flavors to the classic Old Fashioned cocktail.

Exploring Unique Flavors

Bourbons from craft and small-batch distilleries are full of diverse flavors. You might find a bourbon with rich, caramel-like tastes or one with bright, citrusy notes. These spirits open up new possibilities for those who love the Old Fashioned.

  • Discover the bold, spicy character of a high-rye craft bourbon, which can add a delightful complexity to your Old Fashioned.
  • Explore the subtle, floral essence of a small batch bourbon aged in charred oak barrels, which can add a refined and elegant touch to the classic cocktail.
  • Indulge in the rich, chocolatey notes of a craft bourbon finished in toasted oak, creating a luxurious and indulgent Old Fashioned experience.

These unique bourbons add depth and nuance to the Old Fashioned. They let you explore the distiller’s craft and discover new tastes.

“The beauty of craft and small-batch bourbons lies in their ability to showcase the distiller’s vision and passion, offering a level of complexity and character that simply can’t be found in mass-produced spirits.”

If you love bourbon or are new to craft distilling, trying craft and small-batch bourbons can make your Old Fashioned experience better. You’ll find new and exciting flavors that will surprise and delight you.

Mixology Tips and Tricks

Improving your old fashioned cocktail skills is about mastering mixology. It’s all about the details, from measuring correctly to choosing the right garnishes. These expert tips will help you make your old fashioned cocktails stand out, whether you’re a pro or a home enthusiast.

The Importance of Proper Preparation

First, use the right tools. A strong, heavy-bottomed old fashioned glass is key for mixing the sugar and bitters. A good muddler is also crucial to get the most out of your orange twist or cherry. And don’t forget, precise measurements are vital – use a jigger for the bourbon, bitters, and simple syrup.

Mastering the Mixing Technique

Mixing your old fashioned matters. Stir the ingredients over ice gently, so you don’t water down the drink. The aim is to mix flavors smoothly, letting the bourbon’s taste stand out. Avoid shaking hard, as it can make the drink cloudy.

Garnish with Flair

The garnish is the final touch. It makes the drink look better and adds to the taste and smell. Try different citrus twists, brandied cherries, or a flamed orange peel to make your cocktail look special.

“The art of mixology is all about paying attention to the little details that make a big difference in the final product.” – Renowned Bartender, Jane Doe

Use these mixology tips to take your old fashioned cocktails to the next level. Whether you’re at a fancy party or just relaxing at home, being a pro at making old fashioneds will impress your friends.

Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Choosing the right bourbon is key to a perfect Old Fashioned. The best bourbon should have flavors that match the bold taste of this classic drink. Let’s look at some top bourbon choices that will make your Old Fashioned special.

Woodford Reserve is a top pick for Old Fashioneds. It has a smooth feel and tastes of caramel, vanilla, and a hint of spice. Its balanced taste makes it a great choice for this cocktail.

Maker’s Mark is another great choice. It’s a smooth bourbon with a sweet touch and a hint of oakiness. This complements the bitters and simple syrup in an Old Fashioned well. Maker’s Mark lets the other flavors shine without taking over.

  • Knob Creek: This bourbon from Jim Beam is full-bodied and strong. It has a rich taste of oak, caramel, and spice. Knob Creek’s bold taste goes well with the bold flavors of an Old Fashioned.
  • Bulleit Bourbon: With a high rye content, Bulleit Bourbon adds a spicy kick to an Old Fashioned. Its bold flavors work well with the bitters and sweetness of the drink.

When picking the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned, look for one with a mix of sweet, spicy, and oak flavors. The best bourbon should show off its unique taste while also enhancing the other ingredients in this classic cocktail.

Pairing Your Old Fashioned

Making the perfect old fashioned cocktail is an art. It’s not just about the whiskey. Finding the right flavors to pair with it can make the experience even better. This brings out a world of tastes.

Complementary Flavors

When pairing old fashioned drinks, look for flavors that go well with your bourbon. Here are some great options:

  • Aromatic bitters: Angostura or orange bitters add depth and complexity, bringing out the caramel and oak in your whiskey.
  • Citrus garnishes: A twist of orange or lemon peel adds a refreshing touch to the rich, whiskey drinks.
  • Savory snacks: Salted nuts, olives, or cured meats balance the sweetness of the cocktail and clean your palate.
  • Dark chocolate: High-quality dark chocolate’s bitter and earthy flavors match well with the bold bourbon.

Try different pairings to find your ideal old fashioned cocktail match. There are many options, and the fun is in exploring them.

PairingFlavor ProfileComplementary Notes
Angostura BittersAromatic, SpicyEnhances caramel and oak flavors in bourbon
Orange PeelCitrus, BrightProvides a refreshing contrast to the rich whiskey
Salted NutsSavory, SaltyBalances the sweetness of the cocktail
Dark ChocolateBitter, EarthyComplements the bold flavors of bourbon
Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

“The true essence of the old fashioned cocktail lies in the harmonious interplay of its components. Discovering the right pairings is a delightful journey of exploration.”

Old Fashioned Cocktail Variations

The classic Old Fashioned is a timeless favorite, but there are many exciting twists you can try. These variations let you put your own spin on this beloved cocktail. Here are some intriguing Old Fashioned variations to try and take your cocktail game to the next level.

The Maple Old Fashioned is a popular twist. It uses maple syrup for a rich, sweet taste that goes well with bourbon. Just swap the simple syrup with maple syrup and garnish with a lemon twist or brandied cherry to make it.

For a unique taste, try the Mezcal Old Fashioned. Replace the bourbon with smoky mezcal for a complex cocktail. This twist adds a delightful layer of complexity to the classic Old Fashioned.

If you want a lighter, refreshing Old Fashioned, go for the Rye Old Fashioned. Using spicy rye whiskey instead of bourbon gives it a bright, peppery taste. It’s perfect for enjoying in warm weather.

The Espresso Old Fashioned is great for coffee lovers. It mixes the bold taste of bourbon with the rich aroma of espresso. This variation offers a new and exciting way to enjoy the Old Fashioned.

These are just a few of the many variations of the Old Fashioned cocktail you can try. Whether you like a bit of sweetness, smoky flavors, or a caffeine kick, there’s an Old Fashioned variation for you.

Whiskey Drinks Beyond the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is a classic, but there’s more to bourbon whiskey and whiskey drinks. Dive into a world of cocktail recipes and mixology techniques. These show off the spirit’s versatility.

Looking for something new? Try the Manhattan, a mix of bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Or, go for the Mint Julep, a Southern delight that brings out the smooth side of bourbon whiskey.

Want to get creative? Make a Whiskey Sour with bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Or, try the Boulevardier, a bold mix of bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Campari.

  • Mint Julep
  • Manhattan
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Boulevardier
  • Old Fashioned
CocktailKey IngredientsFlavor Profile
Mint JulepBourbon, mint, simple syrupRefreshing, aromatic
ManhattanBourbon, sweet vermouth, bittersSophisticated, stirred
Whiskey SourBourbon, lemon juice, simple syrupBalanced, tart
BoulevardierBourbon, sweet vermouth, CampariBold, bitter-sweet
Old FashionedBourbon, bitters, sugarClassic, spirit-forward
Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

There’s more to whiskey drinks than the Old Fashioned. With creativity and a bit of experimentation, you can find a world of bourbon whiskey-based cocktail recipes and mixology techniques. These will surely impress your guests.

“The beauty of whiskey is its versatility – it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in countless creative cocktails.”


Making the perfect Old Fashioned is like an art. It’s all about finding the right balance of flavors and picking the best bourbon. We’ve shown you how to improve your Old Fashioned with top-shelf, craft, and small-batch bourbons.

Do you like strong, bold bourbon flavors or unique tastes from craft distilleries? The Old Fashioned lets you show off the best bourbon flavors. Try different bourbons with other flavors to explore new tastes. This way, you can enjoy the classic Old Fashioned in new ways.

Starting your bourbon journey means more than just drinking. It’s about the history, the mixology art, and the love in every sip. With the right bourbon and some knowledge, you can make an Old Fashioned that will amaze you and others. Enjoy the experience and the drink together.


What is the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned cocktail?

Choosing the best bourbon for an Old Fashioned depends on what you like. Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Elijah Craig are great choices. They mix sweetness, spice, and complexity well with the cocktail’s other ingredients.

What makes a bourbon well-suited for an Old Fashioned?

Bourbons for an Old Fashioned should be around 90-100 proof. They should taste like caramel, vanilla, oak, and baking spices. These flavors work well with bitters and sugar in the drink.

Can I use any type of bourbon in an Old Fashioned?

You can use any bourbon in an Old Fashioned, but some are better. It’s best to pick a high-quality, small-batch or top-shelf bourbon. This ensures the best flavor and balance in your cocktail.

How do I choose the right bourbon for my Old Fashioned?

Look for a bourbon with a good proof, flavor, and if it’s a craft or small-batch type. Bourbons with caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice flavors work best. Try different brands to see what you like best.

What are some top-shelf bourbon options for an Old Fashioned?

Great top-shelf bourbon choices include Woodford Reserve, Maker’s Mark 46, Bulleit Bourbon, and Knob Creek. These bourbons are high in quality and have complex flavors that make the Old Fashioned better.

Can I use a craft or small-batch bourbon in an Old Fashioned?

Yes! Craft and small-batch bourbons are great for an Old Fashioned. They have unique flavors that add complexity and sophistication. Try Four Roses, Basil Hayden’s, and Angel’s Envy for something special.

What are some tips for mixing the perfect Old Fashioned?

For a perfect Old Fashioned, start with quality bourbon and the right mix of ingredients. Muddle sugar with bitters, add ice and bourbon, and stir well. Finish with an orange twist or cherry for a classic look.

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