History Of The Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Ultimate Whisky Concoction

Old fashioned cocktail at Gorse Hill in Woking

Join us on a journey through time as we explore the rich history of the Old Fashioned, a cherished whisky cocktail which has been enjoyed for centuries.

In this article guide we will also provide you with valuable insights on crafting the perfect Old Fashioned at home, including the best ingredients to use.

Get ready to deepen your appreciation for this timeless classic and enhance your mixology skills along the way!

Old Fashioned History

The Old Fashioned cocktail has a long history dating back to the 1800s, making it one of the earliest cocktails.

Originally called the Whiskey Cocktail it followed a simple recipe with a spirit, sugar, water, and bitters.

Due to its easy preparation using common ingredients it was even consumed in the morning as a remedy for hangovers.

Variations of the Whisky Cocktail

During the 1870s bartenders had access to new liqueurs which sparked their experimentation with different drinks.

The Whiskey Cocktail, which was originally a straightforward beverage, underwent numerous transformations as absinthe, curacao, and Maraschino were added to enhance the flavours.

This resulted in the drink being different each time it was ordered causing frustration for regular bar patrons.

Customers then began asking for the drink to be made in the traditional "old-fashioned" manner.

Revival of the Old Fashioned

Over time, the popularity of the Old Fashioned cocktail declined.

However, it experienced a resurgence in 1880 when bartender James E Pepper claimed to have invented the modern version of the drink.

While there have been other claims to its creation Pepper's story is the most well-known.

He is said to have crafted the cocktail while working at a private club in Louisville, Kentucky, and later introduced the recipe at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel bar in New York City.

Despite Pepper's prominence in the story, the true origin of the drink remains uncertain as it evolved from a basic form, making it difficult to establish definitive ownership.

old fashioned cocktail being made at gorse hill in surrey

Widespread Popularity in London

In the 1990s when cocktails became popular again in London the Old Fashioned was one of the classic drinks that people started to enjoy again.

One famous bartender named Dick Bradsell, who some say also invented the Espresso Martini Cocktail, made his Old Fashioned by slowly adding more whiskey and ice while stirring it.

He took up to 5 minutes to make this famous drink!

What Ingredients are in an Old Fashioned Cocktail?

The Old Fashioned is made with a few simple ingredients, but achieving the perfect balance can be a challenge.

This classic cocktail includes whiskey, sugar syrup, and Angostura bitters, all poured over ice in a lowball cocktail glass.

For added flavour, you can garnish it with an orange slice, a slice of lemon, or even some Maraschino cherries.

We like to garnish ours with an orange slice - Old Fashioned cocktails here at Gorse Hill are not to be missed!

Old Fashioned VS Manhattan | What’s The Difference?

Sometimes people can confuse the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan cocktails because they share similar ingredients.

However, it's important to know the difference between them.

While an Old Fashioned has whiskey, sugar, and Angostura bitters, a Manhattan replaces the sugar with sweet vermouth resulting in a more bitter flavour.

Another distinction is the way they are served.

Unlike the Old Fashioned mixed in a lowball glass, a Manhattan is mixed with ice and strained into a classic coupe glass.

old fashioned cocktail at gorse hill in surrey

Classic Old Fashioned Recipe | Make Your Own!

Now that we've learned about the interesting Old Fashioned history it's time to share a traditional recipe for making this famous cocktail.

This recipe is ideal for making one serving and is very simple and fast.

If you're throwing a party you can easily adjust the ingredients to accommodate the number of guests you have.

Ingredients for the Cocktail

•    2 teaspoons of sugar syrup
•    2 dashes Angostura bitters
•    60ml Scotch Whisky or Bourbon
•    1 teaspoon of water
•    Ice cubes
Ingredients for the Garnish
•    1 orange slice or peel
•    1 maraschino cherry (optional)

•    Lowball Glass
•    Stirrer

Add the sugar syrup, bitters and water ingredients in the glass.
Fill your glass with ice cubes and stir in the whisky well.
Garnish with the orange slice and cherry.


We hope you liked learning about the interesting past of the Old Fashioned.

If you enjoyed the read and love cocktails just as much as we do, you can check out our blog on the Espresso Martini History.


Cocktails in Woking | Gorse Hill

If you want to enjoy some tasty cocktails in Woking we recommend checking out our fantastic country bar at Gorse Hill.

We take pride in offering a wide range of classic cocktails that are expertly made to satisfy your taste buds.

One highly recommended drink is the Old Fashioned, a true classic.

In addition to our great selection of cocktails we also have delicious bar snacks and food options that go perfectly with our drinks.

Whether you're coming for cocktails or looking for a satisfying meal to go with your drinks, our bar in Woking invites you to have a great culinary experience.

Frequently Asked Questions Relating To History of the Old Fashioned Cocktail

Q: How did the Old Fashioned get its name?
A: In the 1870s and 1880s bartenders started adding additional things to their Whiskey Cocktails. But some customers didn't like the changes and wanted the traditional version. They started ordering "old-fashioned whiskey cocktails" instead. Overtime the name was shortened to "Old-Fashioned."

Q: Who invented an Old Fashioned?
A: James E. Pepper a bartender and well-respected bourbon expert is believed to have created the drink in Louisville before taking the recipe to the bar at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It is said that this is where the Old Fashioned cocktail was first made.

Q: Why don't you shake an Old Fashioned?
A: When making an Old Fashioned remember to stir it instead of shaking it. This has nothing to do with temperature but it's all about the texture. Shaking the drink adds air and water which dilutes it too fast. Since the drink is mostly alcohol you simply need to gently stir it with ice to create a smooth and velvety texture.