1923 Prohibition Bar

Whiskey Cocktail at 1923 Prohibition Bar

What to Look for in a Great Whiskey Cocktail

There is perhaps no whiskey cocktail more celebrated than the aptly named “Old Fashioned.” In a global survey, it was voted “World’s Most Popular Cocktail.” 

When it comes to cocktail making, discerning drinkers know that there are certain aspects and cocktail ingredients that make a truly great whiskey cocktail. Trained mixologists swear by a certain few “must-dos” involved in making an Old Fashioned.

Getting the Old Fashioned ingredients right is a no-brainer, and we will cover those in a bit, but there are other things to look for when it comes to enjoying the world’s most popular cocktail. 

Another thing to remember as you read on – all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. To garner the “bourbon” moniker, there is a specific set of rules.

Read on to learn more about the Old Fashioned, what makes it great, and where to find it.

Why The Old Fashioned Is An Iconic Whiskey Cocktail

As mentioned above, the Old Fashioned is the most popular cocktail in the world. It started with humble beginnings and was bolstered by the emergence of the speakeasy during Prohibition.

Brief History

Born in 1880 in the heart of bourbon country Louisville, Kentucky, the Old Fashioned was a spin on a similar popular-but-not-as-tasty cocktail involving gin. However, the drink went mainstream in 1895 when a recipe that closely resembles the current incarnation was published in the Chicago Tribune.

That original recipe included the following (this will be important later):

  • Bourbon or Whiskey
  • Sugar
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Water
  • Orange Peel
  • Ice
  • Cherry

While some historians may place the invention of this delicious concoction somewhere in the early 1800s, it is a commonly recognized tidbit that this 1880 formulation is the real deal.

Explain Bourbon vs. Whiskey

As the old adage states, all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. This is similar to the fact that Champagne is a wine. To be labeled “bourbon,” there are a few traits that the spirits must possess. These include:

  • Minimum of 51% Corn in the Mash
  • Aged in Charred Oak Barrels
  • New Barrels
  • No Additives Or Colorings
  • Distilled at 160 Proof Or Less
  • Aged Until 125 Proof
  • Bottled At No Less Than 80 Proof

A Common Myth

Many people (especially Kentuckians) will tell you that one of, if not the most important distinguishing characteristic of bourbon is that it must be made and distilled in Kentucky.

While the process and distillation methods originate from Kentucky (more specifically Bourbon County, Kentucky), it is not necessarily a hard-and-fast requirement. It’s more of a likelihood because of the familiarity of the process in that glorious pocket of America than a requirement.


So now that you’ve got the background on a great whiskey cocktail like the Old Fashioned is there any kind of modern Old Fashioned remix recipe that might make it more palatable for today’s generation? The quick answer is n”yes,” but they all depend on your specific taste. Here are a few examples:

Coffee Old Fashioned

Whiskey and coffee might sound awful, but this unique twist on the Old Fashioned has gained steam in mixology circles as of late. This specific iteration calls for rye whiskey with some coffee liqueur and the rest of the traditional Old Fashioned accouterment. 

Chocolate Old Fashioned

Another twist on the classic, this cocktail swaps out the orange (or Angostura) bitters for chocolate bitters. It adds a little bit of sugary goodness by substituting some cherry syrup for the cherry itself. It’s a perfect pairing with dessert after a great steak dinner on a night out in Las Vegas.

Honey Old Fashioned

This one is pretty straightforward – make an Old Fashioned. Then add honey. This is another great dessert cocktail. It’s a great appetizer cocktail, too. 


As with any classic and beloved drink recipe, there are a few things that are only known by true connoisseurs about its construction. The Old Fashioned is no exception to that rule.

Orange Zest

While delicious, the Old Fashioned can come out looking a little moribund in its amber glory. Adding an orange peel swirl and some orange zest can give it that pop of brightness and surprise flavor that pushes it from “good” to “great.”

Easy On The Ice

While you want your Old Fashioned to be chilled, you also don’t want it to be overly watery. Well-established bourbon bars have single ice cubes that come in the form of one large sphere or block. This allows the temperature from the ice to diffuse throughout the rest of the whiskey cocktail while not completely liquefying.

The Bitters Make The Drink

The most commonly overlooked ingredient in an Old Fashioned is the bitter component. However, this is arguably the most important part, as it sets it apart from other, less-smoky whiskey cocktails. Make sure to always pay attention to the flavor and brand of bitters that are added.

Fresh Cherries

Nobody wants some wilted, weird-looking maraschino cherries lying limply in their rocks glass with the rest of their Old Fashioned. Keep an eye on where your cherries come from – especially if you’re paying top dollar for your cocktail and doubly so if it includes a top-shelf whiskey or bourbon.

The Best Whiskey Cocktails in Las Vegas

If you’re booking a trip to Las Vegas for a private party, bachelor party, or even just a vacation with your spouse or loved ones, try out the newest (but yet, most classic) whiskey cocktail in town – the Old Fashioned. Take what you’ve learned here, and you’ll at least know how to bluff your way around a speakeasy or whiskey bar.

If you’d like to check out other new and trendy cocktails, special events, or other things to do in Vegas, check out our website

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