Innovative ways to shake up the traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail

Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for 2019 Tribeca Film Festival)
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for 2019 Tribeca Film Festival) /

While the dark, sophisticated bars lined with bottles of expensive whiskeys might serve a traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail, it isn’t the only version that a mixologist can shake up. With a little swap and a big boost of flavor, that classic cocktail embraces nuanced flavor that will have people craving another sip.

Credited to Louisville, Kentucky, a classic Old Fashioned cocktail usually uses bourbon or whiskey, a sugar cube or simple syrup, bitters, an orange and a cherry. Sometimes slightly sweet, the flavor blends approachable with big whiskey flavors. Given that particular whiskeys are a personal preference, the reality is that this cocktail is meant to be slowly sipped while having a spirited conversation.

While the classic cocktail is straightforward, a few twists on the ingredients can lead to a whole new appreciation for the combination of the flavors. From switching the liquor to adding another flavor to the mix, the twists give new appreciation for the classic.

For example, the Woman Bourbon Association suggests a Fig Old Fashioned. With a choice of bourbon or rye, the fig simple syrup adds an unexpected succulent flavor to the cocktail. The jamminess of the fig with the contrast of the walnut bitters makes this cocktail a huge find.

Simple twists on the traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail

While adding flavors to a simple syrup can be one way to shake up the traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail, the easy way to change the flavor is to swap the liquor. Simply change the whiskey, bourbon or rye for another liquor.

These three cocktails showcase that idea. It is a simple twist that revitalizes the Old Fashioned.

BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho Rum Old Fashioned


  • 2 oz BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho Rum
  • 1 Sugar Cube* or ½ oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
  • *if using Sugar Cube add 1/4 oz of water


  • Add all ingredients into a rocks glass. Fill with ice. Stir until well mixed and very cold. Garnish with an orange peel twist.

The above cocktail is a simple swap. Since the BACARDI Reserva Ocho has a richer flavor through the rum’s aging, it makes for a robust cocktail. While there is a touch of the tropics, this cocktail is a lovely way to appreciate both the cocktail and the rum.

SANTA TERESA 1796 Coffee Old Fashioned


  • 2 oz SANTA TERESA 1796 Rum
  • ½ oz Demerara Syrup
  • 4 dashes Coffee Bitters
  • 1 Orange Peel for garnish


  • Build all ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir with ice for 20 seconds. Strain into rocks glass over large ice cube. Add orange peel into drink for garnish.

The use of the coffee bitters is a nice touch to offset the sweetness. Coffee and orange are a lovely combination that needs to be explored more often. In some ways, this cocktail lends itself to other potential uses.

While these particular recipes use an aged rum, an anejo tequila would be a lovely expression for the classic cocktail. The aged tequila would have similar qualities to some aged bourbons and whiskeys. From rich vanillas and caramels to hints of oak, the nuanced, layered flavors would be a delightful option in an Old Fashioned Cocktail.

One impeccable choice would be the new Corralejo Tequila Extra Anejo. WIth 250 years worth of tequila making experience, Corralejo Tequila appreciates that the addition aging can offer a bounty of flavor.

In this expression, the flavor has note of smoky, citrus and oak with hints of sweet caramel. Those notes fit perfectly with an Old Fashioned cocktail. Although this tequila is meant to be a sipper, it can easily meld into the cocktail.

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While the traditional Old Fashioned Cocktail is not banished from the glass, a few twists can revitalize the favorite sipper. Time to toast to cocktail hour.