Making THE Best Old Fashioned | Homemade Citrus Bitters

May 13, 2022
Making THE Best Old Fashioned | Homemade Citrus Bitters

Old Fashioned

Standing behind the business end of my garage bar, wrapped in the amber glow of my backlit half empty bottles of whiskey it is not uncommon for a patron to ask for an old fashioned. It is a mainstay drink after all, and one that every Bourboneur should be able to pull off with exacting precision as a part of your repertoire of go-to drinks.  You will be judged by your ability to deliver on this quintessential piece of Americana so let me help you prepare.

History in a Glass

With a lineage that dates back over a century, the old fashioned has endured war and famine, recessions and booms, Y2K, COVID and the movie Coming to America 2 (I’m still not quite over my disappointment).  The first mention of an old fashioned was in 1862, though the only whiskey to be found in the original namesake was in the suggestion that detailed it was best served in a whiskey glass.  This original “old fashioned” had a very similar look to it (drawing on sugar and bitters in the recipe), but it was a gin-based drink. Fast forward to the late 1800’s and The Pendennis Club, a private gentlemen’s club in Louisville Kentucky is credited with the development of the now popular old fashioned whiskey cocktail.  The private club still exists and for the nominal new member initiation fee of $50,000 USD you can enjoy what is likely to be the most expensive old fashioned on the planet.

Old Fashioned Fundamentals

At is very core, the Old Fashioned is known for its simplicity which means that it does not take much to pull off a great Old Fashioned.  The simplicity of the drink is likely why it has endured as a popular go-to for nearly a century and a half.  The ability to riff the recipe and make it your own has also elevated the appeal of the Old Fashioned with what would seem to be a pile of variants of this beloved drink turning up at each new bar you visit.  Stripping away all the randomness, lets get you squared away and wowing your friends and neighbors by elevating your craft.

Setting the Scene for the Perfect Old Fashioned

Bourbon:  Your choice here is an important one as it is the star of the show and the person you serve this to will 100 percent judge you based on if you went bottom shelf or top shelf, they’ll can’t cover up a bad bourbon here.  You do not need to break the bank, but my personal choice here would be Bulleit Bourbon or Buffalo Trace.  

Old Fashioned Glassware:  The Old Fashioned, is not surprising served in and Old-Fashioned Glass.  Ironically, the glass predates the cocktail!  If you don’t have the right glass, you can find what you need here.

Sugar:  You only need a cube but make it the right cube.  A lot of places dump in some simple syrup or a dash of sugar (or cherry syrup), but here you have the opportunity to shine with a simple secret ingredient that makes all the difference: Get a bag of demerara rough cut sugar cubes to give your drink that old-time look and feel.

Bitters:  A lot of folks will use Angostura bitters for their drink and that is perfectly acceptable. I however just made my own citrus bitters and if you want to wow some folks, this is a must. Beyond getting all the ingredients collected, it comes together easily and it packs a lot of flavor that is sure to impress even the most grandiloquent of your friend group.  Recipe to follow.

Fruit Garnish:  Orange peel garnish with a cherry

Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

Old Fashioned Cocktail Ingredients:  

  • 1 cube sugar
  • 3 dashes of bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces good quality bourbon
  • Garnish


Add sugar and bitters to your glass, then add water, stirring until the sugar is nearly dissolved. Fill the glass halfway with ice cubes and add bourbon, gently stirring to combine the ingredients.  Express an orange peel over the glass, dropping in the peel afterwards.  Add a cherry if desired and serve.

Stepping Up Your Game | DIY Citrus Bitters

Welcome to the land of opportunity my friends, and this is a good one – here’s a great chance to elevate your craft and have something on hand that likely none of your friends have that’s guaranteed to impress!  Homemade bitters.  For this recipe, you’re likely going to have to buy a couple of odds and ends as this stuff doesn’t just sit in a persons pantry…I had a few of these, but still had to buy the rest.  To make it easy, I’ve included links to Amazon for all the things as if you’re like me, I don’t want to go hunting these down when they can simply just show up to my doorstep.  

orange bitters; citrus bitters; bitters for old fashioned cocktail recipe

Instructions:  Simply combine all the ingredients into a quart size jar, place a lid on it and shake daily for five to six days.  Use something like a gold filter from a coffee pot to strain the liquid from solids, decanting it to a bowl where it will sit for an hour to settle. After the resultant suspended fine solids settle from solution, pour the liquid through a double-lined damp layer of cheesecloth in a funnel, being careful to not jostle the fluid too much, leaving behind the bottom layer of silt and fluid in the bowl.  Bottle it up and keep this at or below room temperature for up to five years.

Ingredients for Citrus Bitters:

  • Zest of 6 organic oranges (at your local grocery)
  • 1 teaspoon dried cut gentian root (here)
  • 1 teaspoon dried cut cinchona bark (here)
  • 1 tablespoon dried cut angelica root (here)
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed (here)
  • 6 cardamom pods, cracked (here)
  • 2 allspice berries, crushed (here)
  • Pinch of saffron threads (here)
  • 2 cups everclear (at your local liquor store)
  • Half a cup of dry sherry (at your local grocery)
  • 2 tablespoons double-strength demerara syrup (to make this dissolve 2:1 demerara sugar:water over heat, cool before adding)

Stop by the Bourboneur Shop

What's better than sipping on the best old fashioned cocktail you've ever had after a long day? Nothing. But finding just the thing you need to take your home bar to the next level is up there with it! See if we have what you're looking for in the shop.

Bourboneur Glencairn Glass


Recent Posts


Be the first to leave a comment.
User is typing...
4 years ago
This is the actual comment. It's can be long or short. And must contain only text information.
2 years ago
This is the actual comment. It's can be long or short. And must contain only text information.
Load More
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Load More
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.