Take Your Old Fashioned Recipe to the Next Level With These 5 Upgrades

These cocktail tips are anything but old fashioned.

Old Fashioned
Photo: Jonathan Knowles/Getty Images

There's a shortlist of classic cocktails that have been sipped on for ages—and the old fashioned is certainly one of them. With just three ingredients, it's difficult to mess up this quintessential aperitif, and many people don't realize that it's also extremely easy to get creative with this libation, courtesy of a few easy tweaks.

The typical old fashioned recipe dates back to the 1800s, and features high-quality whiskey, a muddled sugar cube, a couple dashes of bitters, and an orange peel that serves as a garnish. It's also a cardinal rule that a true old fashioned is stirred and never shaken. While many prefer the old-school version, which is a classic for a reason, it's also fun to explore different recipes and put your own twist on the beloved drink. From using different liquors, bitters, and sweeteners, to modifying how it's served, here are a few ways to reinvent the old fashioned.

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Switch Up the Spirit

Nowadays it's not uncommon to sip on an old fashioned made with bourbon or rye, but believe it or not, tequila is also a great alternative. Philip Ward, a bartender at Death & Co. in New York City, took a chance by swapping out whiskey for tequila and mezcal, and that was the day the Oaxaca old fashioned was born. This rendition has the perfect balance of both smoky and sweet flavors—courtesy of the mezcal, agave, and chocolate bitters. If you're not a tequila lover, you can whip up an old fashioned with alternative spirits like rum, brandy, or cognac.

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Experiment With Sweeteners and Bitters

Angostura bitters and sugar cubes (or simple syrup) is the key to perfecting an old fashioned, but there are many other flavors that pair well with the boldness of whiskey or bourbon. Using honey, demerara syrup, or fresh fruit jams, like fig or dark cherry, are all great ways to add a different complexity to your drink. Chocolate, wormwood, and Peychaud's bitters are also great to have on-hand.

RELATED: What Are Cocktail Bitters and How Should You Use Them?

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Serve It Warm

If whiskey doesn't already warm your bones, you might want to try an old fashioned topped off with warm water. Before you pass judgment, think of it as an iteration of a hot toddy, but with added bitters and orange zest. Keep this version in mind for cold winter nights or a holiday gathering.

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Take Advantage of Seasonal Flavors

Enhance your old fashioned by utilizing different seasonal produce and flavors. Swap out the traditional orange rind and try muddling fresh, juicy peaches or tart blackberries during the warm summer months. And if you're a pumpkin spice fanatic, add a bit of pumpkin puree and a dash of cinnamon for the most delicious fall cocktail.

RELATED: 18 Refreshing Cocktails Perfect for Peak Summertime

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Know Your Ice

Different types of cocktails require specific types of ice. It may sound silly, but the shape and texture of the ice used in a drink can really make or break it. For a cocktail like an old fashioned, it's always a good idea to use a big square cube or orb. Not only does it look fancy, but it also ensures that the ingredients don't get diluted and become too watery.

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