How to Make an Old-Fashioned in the UK

The Old-Fashioned is a classic cocktail that has stood the test of time. Originating in the early 19th century, this cocktail is known for its simplicity and elegance. While its roots are deeply American, the Old-Fashioned has found its way into the hearts and glasses of cocktail enthusiasts around the world, including the UK. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the history of the Old-Fashioned, its essential ingredients, and step-by-step instructions on how to craft the perfect Old-Fashioned right in your home in the UK.

Table of Contents

  1. History of the Old-Fashioned
  2. Essential Ingredients
    • Whiskey
    • Sugar
    • Bitters
    • Ice
    • Garnish
  3. Tools You’ll Need
  4. Step-by-Step Instructions
  5. Variations and Tips
  6. Conclusion


1. History of the Old-Fashioned

The exact origins of the Old-Fashioned are somewhat murky, but it is widely believed to have originated in the United States during the early 19th century. Originally known simply as the “whiskey cocktail,” it was a mixture of whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters. Over time, the recipe evolved, and by the late 19th century, it came to be known as the Old-Fashioned. The cocktail gained popularity in the UK during the 20th century and has since become a staple in bars and homes alike.


2. Essential Ingredients


The heart and soul of any Old-Fashioned cocktail is the whiskey. In the UK, you have a plethora of options ranging from traditional American bourbons to Scottish single malts. The choice of whiskey will greatly influence the flavor profile of your Old-Fashioned.


Traditionally, a sugar cube or simple syrup is used to sweeten the cocktail. In the UK, you can easily find high-quality sugar cubes or make your own simple syrup by dissolving sugar in water.


Bitters are a crucial component that adds depth and complexity to the Old-Fashioned. Angostura bitters are the most commonly used, but feel free to experiment with different types available in the UK.


Quality ice is essential for a well-balanced cocktail. Use large ice cubes or spheres to minimize dilution while chilling the drink effectively.


A twist of citrus peel or a cherry serves as a delightful garnish, adding aroma and visual appeal to the cocktail.


3. Tools You’ll Need

  • Mixing glass or cocktail shaker
  • Bar spoon
  • Jigger or measuring cup
  • Strainer
  • Old-Fashioned glass
  • Citrus peeler (for garnish)

4. Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Measure Ingredients: Using a jigger, measure 2 oz of whiskey and pour it into a mixing glass or cocktail shaker.
  2. Add Sugar: Add a sugar cube or ΒΌ oz of simple syrup to the whiskey.
  3. Add Bitters: Add 2-3 dashes of bitters to the mixture.
  4. Stir: Using a bar spoon, gently stir the ingredients for about 20-30 seconds to dissolve the sugar and blend the flavors.
  5. Add Ice: Fill the mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice and stir again for another 20-30 seconds.
  6. Strain: Using a strainer, pour the mixture into an Old-Fashioned glass filled with ice.
  7. Garnish: Add a twist of citrus peel or a cherry for garnish.


5. Variations and Tips

  • Rye vs. Bourbon: While bourbon is the traditional choice, rye whiskey offers a spicier alternative.
  • Experiment with Bitters: Consider trying different types of bitters such as orange or aromatic bitters for a unique twist.
  • Quality Over Quantity: Always opt for high-quality ingredients to elevate the flavor profile of your Old-Fashioned.

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6.The Art of Craftsmanship

Making an Old-Fashioned is not merely about mixing ingredients; it’s an art form that requires attention to detail and a passion for craftsmanship. Each element, from the choice of whiskey to the method of stirring, contributes to the overall experience of the cocktail.

The Whiskey Spectrum

In the UK, whiskey enthusiasts have access to a wide range of options, each offering a unique flavor profile. Whether you prefer the smoky undertones of an Islay Scotch or the caramel notes of a Kentucky bourbon, selecting the right whiskey is the first step towards creating an exceptional Old-Fashioned.

The Sweetness Factor

The sweetness level of an Old-Fashioned is a matter of personal preference. While some prefer a sweeter cocktail, others opt for a more balanced approach. Experiment with different sugar levels or explore alternative sweeteners like maple syrup or honey to find your perfect balance.


7. Pairing with Food

The Old-Fashioned’s robust and complex flavors make it an excellent companion for a variety of dishes. In the UK, consider pairing your Old-Fashioned with traditional British fare such as steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, or even a classic roast dinner. The cocktail’s versatility allows it to complement a wide range of flavors, enhancing your dining experience.

Cheese and Charcuterie Pairings

For a sophisticated pairing, serve your Old-Fashioned with a selection of British cheeses and charcuterie. The cocktail’s bold flavors contrast beautifully with creamy cheeses like Stilton or sharp cheddars, while the saltiness of cured meats provides a delightful counterpoint.


8. The Social Aspect

One of the joys of making an Old-Fashioned is sharing it with others. In the UK, hosting a cocktail evening or a whiskey tasting can be a fantastic way to introduce your friends and family to the art of crafting the perfect Old-Fashioned. Encourage experimentation and discussion, and you’ll find that each person’s unique twist on the classic recipe adds to the collective experience.

Hosting Tips

  • Provide a variety of whiskeys and bitters for guests to experiment with.
  • Offer a selection of garnishes, such as different citrus peels or flavored cherries, to customize each cocktail.
  • Create a cozy ambiance with dim lighting and background music to enhance the social atmosphere.


9. The Legacy Continues

As the cocktail landscape evolves, the Old-Fashioned remains a steadfast classic that continues to inspire bartenders and enthusiasts alike. Its timeless appeal transcends borders and cultures, making it a beloved drink not just in the UK but around the world. By mastering the art of crafting an Old-Fashioned, you become part of a legacy that celebrates tradition, innovation, and the simple pleasure of enjoying a well-made cocktail.


10. Final Thoughts

Making an Old-Fashioned in the UK is more than just a recipe; it’s a journey that connects you to a rich history and a vibrant community of whiskey lovers. Whether you’re a seasoned bartender or a home enthusiast, the Old-Fashioned offers a rewarding experience that celebrates craftsmanship, creativity, and camaraderie. So, raise your glass to this timeless classic, and savor each sip as you embark on your own Old-Fashioned adventure. Cheers!



The Old-Fashioned is not just a cocktail; it’s a timeless classic that embodies the essence of whiskey craftsmanship. By following this guide and paying attention to the details, you can create an Old-Fashioned that rivals those served in the finest bars in the UK. So, gather your ingredients, hone your mixing skills, and embark on a journey to create the perfect Old-Fashioned right in the comfort of your home. Cheers!


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