How to make a classic Old Fashioned cocktail


If you love the vintage cocktails as much as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow does, here's one for you. The Old Fashioned-the real Old Fashioned. Rachel shows how it's done, the old-fashioned way, for a very modern cocktail.

How to make a classic Old Fashioned cocktail

The Old Fashioned is said to be the first cocktail. Rachel Maddow shows us how to make the original version with the simplest of ingredients - sugar, bitters, a splash of soda water and bonded Rye whiskey – the old-fashioned, Old Fashioned - if you will.


Sugar cube

Angostura bitters

Soda water

Rye whiskey (Rachel uses Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond Rye Whiskey)

Step 1: Add a small sugar cube to a small tumbler cocktail glass.(Also known as an Old Fashioned glass.)

Step 2: Add three dashes of Angostura bitters to soak the sugar cube

Step 3: Add one teaspoon of soda water

Step 4: Using a muddler, smash the sugar cube, bitters and soda water until combined to make a syrup

Step 5: Add 2 ounces of Rye whiskey

Step 6: Add a small amount of ice, making sure not to over-water the drink

Step 7: Cut a thin slice of lemon peel, squeeze over drink to express lemon peel oil, and drop into glass

Transcript <!--StartFragment-->

Hi, I’m Rachel Maddow here for my friends at and I’m going to tell you how to make the original cocktail. It’s an Old Fashioned but I don’t want you to get too excited about the idea of smushed-up fruit in your glass or some sweet confection that only vaguely reminds you of whiskey.  This is the old-fashioned Old Fashioned – the original cocktail – the cocktail from before cocktails were called cocktails.

So, the old-fashioned Old Fashioned doesn’t have too many ingredients in it; it’s pretty simple.  You start with sugar. You want sort-of a small sized sugar cube and then you’re going to add Angostura bitters.  You can get Angostura bitters anywhere.  You’ll know you’re getting the right one because the label doesn’t fit on the bottle (there’s a long story about that.) One, two, three; you want about three dashes of Angostura on top of your sugar cube; you sort of want to soak the sugar cube.  Then, a little bit of club soda or seltzer water and I do mean a little bit.  You don’t want a cocktail full of water; you just want a tiny bit here.  It’s essentially just to give you mixability, so I’m putting maybe a teaspoon of club soda there.  Alright, now this is the fun part. This is the impress your guests part. What you are doing is you are mixing together the sugar, the Angostura bitters and a little bit of club soda or soda water and you’re making a little syrup. So it’s all dissolved together. Thank you, muddler. Well done.  Alright, now we’re getting to the important part.  This is the whiskey. I’m using bonded, which means 100-proof Rye.  You can use either Rye or Bourbon in this, but you want it to be a whiskey that you really like the flavor of because this is sort of the big deal of the cocktail; there’s not much more in it. So, we’re putting in 2 ounces of, in this case, bonded Rye. (Don’t be as splashy as I am.) Alright, and we’re almost done.  All we’re going to do now is add a little ice and a very important garnish. So, not too much ice; you don’t want to over-water the drink. If you have really big ice cubes -- big sturdy ice cubes --  that’s the best with this drink, but any ice will do. And now, here’s the garnish.  A little lemon peel.  You want to cut it really thin because you don’t want any of the white pith on the back because that’s pretty bitter; you want mostly the lemon oil.  Get a nice big swath of it, like this, and then you just express the lemon oil into the drink, drop it in and that is an old-fashioned Old Fashioned.

I’m Rachel Maddow for

meet theexpert
  • Rachel Maddow

    Rachel Maddow Host, The Rachel Maddow Show Rachel Maddow hosts msnbc’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” featuring her take on the biggest stories of the day, political and otherwise. She is a dedicated mixology hobbyist who has mixed cocktails for Martha Stewart and Jimmy Fallon. more about this expert »

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