Using the best bourbon for an old fashioned is key to making this classic drink. You will find all of my top recommendations in different bourbon categories and the best bourbon to make an old fashioned. This classic old fashioned recipe with many exciting variations will make you an old fashioned cocktail pro in no time!
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Cheers to the end of the year and the beginning of another year! And what better way to celebrate the year’s end than drinking a good cocktail?
We wanted to delve deep into the spirits industry and take a look at some of the best old fashioned bourbon brands in the market today to really come up with an end-of-the-year worthy beverage.
The simple Old Fashioned cocktail features a quick mix of whiskey, sugar, bitters and water—the classic crowd-pleaser.
- Old Fashioned Ingredients
- How to Make an Old Fashioned
- Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned
- Best Bitters for Old Fashioned
- Old Fashioned Cocktail Variations
- Best Old Fashioned Glass
- Best Cherries for Old Fashioned
- Best Bourbon under $30
- Best Bourbon under $40
- Best Bourbon under $50
- Best Bourbon under $100
- Smoothest Bourbon for Beginners
- Best Bourbon for Beginners
- Looking for Other Great Cocktail Recipes?
- Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned (with Classic Recipe and Variations)
Old Fashioned Ingredients
- Bourbon or Rye
- Angostura Bitters
- Sugar: You can use granulated white sugar. You can also use simple syrup in place of the water sugar combination. If you want to create a rich brown sugar undertone, you can make this delicious Demerara Syrup.
- Orange Peel (Garnish): Orange peel or delicious Bourbon Cherries.
- Ice: You can use ice cubes or a large ice block (these sphere and square ice molds are great). The large ice block will melt more slowly.
How to Make an Old Fashioned
- Add water, bitters and sugar to rocks glass. Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Add bourbon or rye.
- Add ice or drink straight (no ice).
Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned
We’ve tried a variety of bourbons available in the market to really compare which one will have the greatest impact on the taste of the drink. I won’t admit how many have been sipped, but my team of taste testers got hard to work and picked some top favorites!
Willett Rowan’s Creek Bourbon
The Willet Rowan’s Creek best-selling bourbon is proudly one of the Willett Distilling Company’s lineup of small batch boutique bourbons. A classic caramel sweetness with a touch of pepper and oak, the finish is long and mellowing—extending to a dry and spicy finish.
Kentucky Owl Bourbon Whiskey
THE WISEMAN™ Bourbon from Kentucky Owl® is the perfect blend of 4 Kentucky straight bourbons. Caramel, allspice, and citrus notes fill the nose. As the allspice fades, the longer finish presents with caramel and hints of oak. The flavors of this bourbon really dance in the old fashioned giving it a warm fall feeling.
Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Bourbon is a wonderful choice for your old fashioned. Clean, brilliant honey amber Aroma: Heavy with rich dried fruit, with hints of mint and oranges covered with a dusting of cocoa; faint vanilla and tobacco spice.
The Woodford Reserve may have been founded not too long ago, but it has since solidified its name in the industry as one of the best bourbon brands in the market.
Best Bitters for Old Fashioned
Looking for the best bitters for an old fashioned cocktail was a tough one and there are some that are still up for debate. But luckily, we’ve found three of the best bitters for you to choose from.
Scrappy’s Bitters: Scrappy’s Bitters aim to provide the highest quality bitters without sacrificing quality for quantity. Every batch is organic and carefully made by hand—no artificial flavorings, chemicals, or dyes are added. You can purchase Scrappy’s Bitters on Amazon or directly from their website.
Hella Cocktail Co: Hella Cocktail Co bitters are made with pure cane sugar, natural extracts, fruit juice concentrates, peels, spices, and bitter root. They never use preservatives, artificial flavorings, or high-fructose corn syrup and each of their products are being sold only at an affordable price. You can Hella Cocktail Co Bitters on Amazon or direct from their website.
Old Fashioned Cocktail Variations
Bourbon or rye whiskey is the standard spirit in an Old Fashioned. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t other options!
In fact, you can change things up a bit if you’re in the mood to try something more special than a classic Old Fashioned. You might also want to try switching up the sweet component (classic water and sugar) for a simple syrup or flavored syrup.
And let’s not forget the bitters that shape the flavor of the drink. Whether you’re a longtime fan of the same Old Fashioned cocktail or a newcomer to the drink, you’ll surely love these unique alterations that showcase new and unique flavor combinations.
Brandy Old Fashioned: Use brandy instead of bourbon in your classic recipe.
Cherry Old Fashioned: Add in 1 ounce of amarena cherry juice in your classic recipe.
Christmas Old Fashioned: Use rosemary and cranberry to garnish. Add a splash of apple cider.
Apple Cider Old Fashioned: Add in a quarter cup of apple cider in your classic recipe.
Gin Old Fashioned: Replace bourbon with gin.
Chocolate Old Fashioned: Use chocolate bitters instead of orange bitters in your classic recipe.
Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned: Follow classic recipe using Buffalo Trace Bourbon.
Bulleit Old Fashioned: Follow classic recipe using Bulleit Bourbon.
Gingerbread Old Fashioned: Instead of simple syrup (sugar and water), use gingerbread syrup in your classic recipe. About 1 teaspoon.
Cranberry Old Fashioned: Use spiced cranberry syrup instead of simple syrup (water sugar).
Cinnamon Old Fashioned: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon simple syrup to recipe in place of sugar and water.
Crown Royal Old Fashioned: Use the Crown Royal instead of your usual bourbon whiskey for this classic recipe.
Blood Orange Old Fashioned: Do the classic recipe and add in ¼ cup of blood orange juice. Garnish with blood orange.
Honey Old Fashioned: Replace the water and sugar with honey for this classic recipe.
Blackberry Old Fashioned: Replace the water and sugar with blackberry syrup for this classic recipe. Garnish with skewered blackberries.
Apple Old Fashioned: Use apple bitters instead of angostura and add ¼ cup apple cider. You can also use Stillhouse Apple Whiskey instead of bourbon.
Cognac Old Fashioned: Follow classic recipe using a Cognac.
Fall Old Fashioned:Replace the water and sugar with maple syrup for this classic recipe. Add 1.4 cup apple cider and garnish with cinnamon sticks.
Brown Sugar Old Fashioned: Replace white sugar with brown sugar in classic recipe.
Espresso Old Fashioned: Add 1 shot espresso.
Bacon Old Fashioned: Add small bacon pieces in a cocktail shaker along with the usual ingredients, shake well and strain into a rocks glass before adding in bourbon. Garnish with candied bacon.
Blueberry Old Fashioned: Replace the water and sugar with blueberry syrup for this classic recipe. Garnish with skewered blueberries.
Black Cherry Old Fashioned: Replace the water and sugar with black cherry syrup for this classic recipe. Garnish with skewered cherries. Alternatively, you can use cherry bitters in the classic recipe. You will also love this Cherry Manhattan!
Fig Old Fashioned: Replace simple syrup (water/sugar) with caramelized fig syrup.
Elderflower Old Fashioned: Add ½ oz of St. Germain to classic recipe.
Fireball Old Fashioned: Follow classic recipe using Fireball Whiskey.
Banana Old Fashioned: Replace the water and sugar with banana syrup for this classic recipe. Garnish with banana slice.
Grapefruit Old Fashioned: Use grapefruit bitters and/or add ¼ cup grapefruit juice.
Blanton’s Old Fashioned: Use Blanton’s Bourbon in your old fashioned recipe.
Gentleman Jack Old Fashioned: Use Gentleman Jack Bourbon, a premium version of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey in your classic old fashioned recipe.
Best Old Fashioned Glass
This amber-colored concoction doesn’t just belong in any glass. It needs a classic old fashioned glass. Here are three of the best sets of rocks glass on Amazon that will add a fancy touch to any drink.
KANARS Old Fashioned Whiskey Glass: This crowd-favorite whiskey glass tumbler is made with a lead-free high quality crystal glass and a detailed diamond-like design. It is heavier than most whiskey glass and is highly breakage resistant—giving you a real sense of strength and substantiality.
Dragon Glassware Diamond Whiskey Glass: This gravity-defying glass design gives a unique drinking experience as it is tilted at a 50° angle. It is designed to be uniquely spill-proof and aerate the drink inside.
JoyJolt Cognac Glasses: While not your typical old fashioned rocks glass, I love an old fashioned in a sassy little brandy snifter or cognac glass. These sassy little glasses are lightweight of beautiful for serving your old fashioned or any cocktail you love!
Best Cherries for Old Fashioned
Whether you’re up for some classic Old Fashioned or a strong Manhattan drink, these cherries are the perfect garnish you are looking for.
Trader Joe’s Pitted Amarena Cherries: Trader Joe’s Amarena cherries are absolutely exquisite and perfect in Old Fashioned or Manhattan. If you are lucky enough to love near a Trader Joe’s, grab them there during the holiday season. You can also purchase these cherries on Amazon.
Luxardo Maraschino Cherries: These Luxardo Maraschino Cherries have an excellent texture and rich, elegant flavor. Although they are pricier than the average supermarket variety, every cherry is truly worth the price you pay for.
Traverse City Whiskey Co. Premium Cocktail Cherries: These premium cocktail cherries are 100% Natural Gluten-Free Ingredients with No Added Artificial Fillers, Thickening Agents, Colors or Additives and Gluten Free, Preservative Free and are Certified Kosher.
Premium Cocktail Cherries are 20% larger than other brands, have a deep, dark plum red color, and are dipped in a flavorful natural syrup that delivers a satisfyingly sweet and savory taste with faint earthy hints, perfect for an Old Fashioned.
Best Bourbon under $30
Stillhouse Black Bourbon is by far the best bourbon deal you’ll get in under $30. This barrel-aged bourbon blends sweet caramel into the slightly bitter roasted coffee bean mix giving you a bold and nuanced bourbon.
Sold in stainless steel cans, the Stillhouse Black Bourbon stands out not only in taste but as a signature piece in your home bar.
Be sure to check out the Stillhouse Apple Whiskey for a delicious apple old fashioned!
Wolf Moon Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Slightly spicy up front yet finishes with a splash of gingery chai tea, the Wolf Moon Bourbon is a true bourbon with its ultimate country credentials. This four-year-old bourbon is best suited for sipping or in an old fashioned.
Best Bourbon under $40
Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a great pick for under $40. It is uniquely refined with Texas Mesquite and oak charcoals which only deepens the complexity and flavor of the drink. The balanced blend of caramel, vanilla, pear, and spices definitely rounds out in a subtle yet smooth finish.
Best Bourbon under $50
Boulder Spirits Bourbon is a special nontraditional bourbon that offers tasty notes of sweet cinnamon pastry using 51% corn, 44% malted barley, and 5% rye. The woody aromas of cedar, popcorn, and nougat are well incorporated into its cinnamon Danish flavor profile.
Bradshaw Bourbon aged-bourbon is carefully distilled at one of the oldest distilleries in the United States by a third-generation master distiller. Boasting vanilla, toffee, banana, leather, and campfire notes with a finish of wood, vanilla and butterscotch.
Best Bourbon under $100
Knob Creek 12 Year is an amazing bourbon that won’t knock you out of the top of your price range! Kentucky- Aged for 12 years in white American oak casks. Features bold and spicy overtones, leathered fruits, vanilla and caramelized wood flavors with a warm smoky char finish.
Smoothest Bourbon for Beginners
Say no more, Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is here. This hand-crafted bourbon is made only in limited quantities across the states and is uniquely known for its superior taste and smoothness. This caramel flavored drink is sure to be loved by all—whether you’re only in for a sip or would enjoy this mixed in an Old Fashioned.
Best Bourbon for Beginners
The amber-colored Buffalo Trace Bourbon is pleasantly sweet to the taste with a hint of brown sugar and spice that finishes smooth with a serious depth. Aged and bottled at an award-winning distillery, the Buffalo Trace Bourbon proudly brandishes its rich and complex taste of toffee and candied fruit that’s best suited for beginners and social drinkers.
Looking for Other Great Cocktail Recipes?
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Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned (with Classic Recipe and Variations)
- 2 oz bourbon or rye
- 2-3 dash angostura bitters
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon water
- 1 orange peel (garnish)
- Add water, bitters and sugar to rocks glass. Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Add bourbon or rye.
- Add ice or drink straight (no ice).