The 5 Best Whiskeys for an Old Fashioned

Updated 11/09/18

tusumaru/Getty Images. Graphic by Cristina Cianci

Broadly acclaimed as the original cocktail, the old fashioned is a core element of any whiskey lover’s repertoire. Variations of the recipe date back to the Civil War era, with the name “old fashioned” attributed to the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The fact that the cocktail was already called an “old fashioned” in 1881 certainly speaks to its old-school cred. To this day (as evidenced by its presence on the most mouthwatering cocktail menus), few recipes have made a bigger impact on craft-cocktail culture.

The drink is comprised of bourbon or whiskey and usually just a bit of sugar, bitters, and an orange peel to garnish. Although the recipe itself is simple, picking the perfect whiskey can be a challenge. There's rye whiskey, Kentucky bourbon, and many more options to choose from. All are made in their own unique way and offer different flavors.

Whether you’re a seasoned aficionado or a new classic-cocktail enthusiast, here are five of the best whiskeys for an old fashioned, plus how to make one for yourself. Happy sipping.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Buffalo Trace Bourbon $30
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The perennial darling of the craft-cocktail set, Buffalo Trace is the go-to spirit for a classic old fashioned. With a hint of honey-like sweetness and an expertly balanced blend of corn and rye, Buffalo Trace reflects the signature elements of the cocktail without being overpowering. If you’re planning a dinner party or restocking the liquor cabinet, this is also one of the most drinkable and affordable whiskeys to keep on hand. As Theo Lieberman, head bartender at Milk & Honey in New York points out, “You’d be hard-pressed to find something as good for under $30.”

'Daphne' Decanter & Whiskey Glasses
American Atelier 'Daphne' Decanter & Whiskey Glasses $60
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Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon

Eagle Rare 10-Year Bourbon $55
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Another staple from the Sazerac line (and a favorite among craft-cocktail icons like The Richardson and Death & Co.), Eagle Rare is one of the best whiskeys for an old fashioned. Featuring notes of brown sugar and orange peel, the major selling point of this whiskey is the balance between the flavors. As David Kaplan of Death & Co. suggests, “In an old fashioned, balance manifests in a different way than a sour. It’s all about enhancing the flavor of the base spirit in a pronounced and focused way while rounding off the edges, making it easier to consume than straight booze.”

Rbt 5-Piece Coaster and Stand Set
Rabbit 5-Piece Coaster and Stand Set $40
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Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked $48
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The original iteration of Woodford Reserve has cultivated a strong following as a highly respectable, versatile whiskey. This new, delectably rich variant is swiftly gaining traction on the cocktail scene. Richer and heftier than traditional whiskeys, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked bourbon carries distinctive notes of caramel, oak, and hazelnut that make for a strong, woodsy old fashioned.

Lismore Connoisseur Whiskey Straight Sided Tumbler Glass, Set of 2
Waterford Lismore Connoisseur Whiskey Straight Sided Tumbler Glass, Set of 2 $100
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Mulholland Whiskey

Mulholland American Whiskey
Mulholland American Whiskey $30
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Mulholland Whiskey is one of the newer whiskeys to gain a following among craft-cocktail aficionados. It also offers a high-proof, low-risk alternative to more established bourbons in the canon. Featuring strong notes of toffee, maple, and vanilla, the result is “A distinctive West Coast old fashioned,” which, according to Joshua Bermudez, director of Wolf & Long and head bartender at the Wellesbourne in Los Angeles, “Offers a clean, sea salt–mineral finish that stands up gorgeously to the sweeter elements of the cocktail.”

Whiskey Wedge
Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge $18
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Rittenhouse Rye

Rittenhouse Rye 100
Rittenhouse Rye 100 $22
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If bourbon isn’t your thing, then opt for an old fashioned made with rye (a favorite of TV character Don Draper). If you’re leaning in this direction, Rittenhouse Rye is the way to go. Since rye consumption predates bourbon, this stylish yet affordable rye celebrates a true tradition and is characterized by notes of black pepper, stone fruit, and spice.

Sparq's Original Soapstone Whiskey Rocks, Set of 12
SPARQ Original Soapstone Whiskey Rocks, Set of 12 $25
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How to Make an Old Fashioned

Now that you know a few of the best whiskeys for an old fashioned, here’s how to make one:

Ingredients:

2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
1 sugar cube (or 1/2 tsp. sugar)
2 to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 orange peel

2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
1 sugar cube (or 1/2 tsp. sugar)
2 to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 orange peel

Directions:

Legacy 11-Piece Whiskey Box Gift Set
Legacy 11-Piece Whiskey Box Gift Set $112
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This post was originally published on February 13, 2018, and has since been updated.

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