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The old-fashioned is certainly one of the most iconic and popular cocktails around, and for good reason—it’s a fabulously delicious way to enjoy whiskey. The classic is essentially a three-ingredient drink of whiskey, sugar, and bitters served over ice with fruit garnish—some prefer a cherry, some an orange, and others still, madmen they may be, want both in the glass. It’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s cold, it’s refreshing. It’s perfect.
Sure, the drink’s reinvigorated popularity has launched a thousand slightly fussy signature versions on the menus of nearly every haughty bar across the land. But the classic still reigns supreme. While it is a relatively easy drink to make yourself, sometimes it’s nicer to have one ready to go for a solo cocktail or a bottle pre-mixed to share with friends.
For those times, here are some well-crafted, ready-to-drink old-fashioned mixes that won’t require fuss or muss—just a glass, ice, and maybe a cherry, orange, or both.
Best Overall: Hochstadter's Slow & Low Rock and Rye Whiskey
Available in either a 100-milliliter can or 750-milliliter bottle, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye old-fashioned is an easy-drinking treat. Made with an 84 proof straight rye whiskey, honey, navel oranges, angostura bitters, and a tidbit of rock candy, it’s a well-balanced drink all ready to go. The peppery rye spice is mellowed out by the fruity notes and honey while the bitters and rock candy give it a long and sweet finish.
Best High-Proof: High West Old Fashioned Whiskey Barrel Finished Cocktail
The Park City-based High West recently released its own version of a bottled old-fashioned. The Utah distiller has whipped up a pre-batched version of the iconic cocktail using both bourbon and a high (95 percent) rye whiskey, aromatic bitters, and a simple syrup made from Demerara sugar. The folks at High West then use an ex-rye barrel to age the cocktail for roundness and more cohesion. The result clocks in at 86 proof for a deeply flavorful glass, rich with notes of orange zest, dried cherries, sassafras, mint, and spice, with a lovely sweet and peppery finish.
Best Low-Proof: Wandering Barman Boomerang Old Fashioned
The Wandering Barman Boomerang is a righteous old-fashioned. Only available in a 100-milliliter bottle, it’s the perfect portable potable for those who might want to enjoy a lighter adult beverage. The Brooklyn-based maker gives its version of the cocktail, which clocks in at a modest 60 proof, loads of flavor: Toasted maple, a touch of char, and a solid dose of spice bring harmony to the bourbon’s corn sweetness while orange bitters add extra depth.
Best Sweet: Bully Boy Old Fashioned Whiskey
Boston-based distiller Bully Boy produces a variety of spirits, including its American Straight Whiskey, which is used to anchor this old-fashioned bottled cocktail. It’s a sweet and tasty affair with plenty of herbal notes on the nose thanks to what we’d guess is a large dose of bitters. The 71.4-proof bottling is only available in a 750-milliliter package. The sugar content gives the drink a punch but isn’t overly saccharine. Vanilla, cocoa, and cherry buttress the ample bitters to form a well-balanced glass.
Best Cherry Notes: Watershed Bourbon Old Fashioned
For drinkers who enjoy strong cherry notes in their cocktail, put Watershed Distillery Old Fashioned on the shopping list. The Ohio producer adds a touch of cherry juice, bitters, and sugar to its very own bourbon, which is not only distilled in the Buckeye state but also aged in locally made barrels. The resulting 70-proof cocktail is obviously fruity but not overly sweet. The rich cherry notes find a symbiotic partnership with a deep clove-laden spice.
Best Non-Alcoholic: Lyre's Non-Alcoholic American Malt Beverage
For those who want the taste of an old-fashioned but not the alcohol-induced buzz, Lyre’s American Malt provides an interesting alternative to sip. It’s also extremely light—a 1-ounce pour has only 5 calories and a single gram of sugar. Lyre’s American Malt is gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Vanilla notes combine with a toasted nut flavor and an herbal tea to make for an intriguing glass. It also works as a flavorful base for a low-alcohol cocktail if you prefer your drink with just a little bit of kick.
Best DIY Solution: Sofia's Findings American White Oak Wood Barrels
If your aim is to take some of the hassle out of the routine cocktail hour, might we recommend making a large batch of your own go-to old-fashioned and barrel-age it yourself. You’ll, of course, need a barrel, and you’ll want to prime it to make sure it doesn’t leak. You can use different whiskey and bitters and adjust ratios as you see fit, which is the fun part of barrel aging your own version—experimentation.
Roughly, for every 750-milliliter bottle of bourbon or rye you use, you’ll need 3/4 to 1 ounce of bitters and a 1/4 cup of sugar. Combine all of your ingredients in a pitcher and use a funnel to fill the barrel. Let your cocktail rest for a few weeks and give it a taste here and there. After about 4-6 weeks (maybe a bit longer), your concoction should be ready to enjoy or store in glass bottles or jars in your refrigerator. You may want to strain or filter before you imbibe as some bits of char may dislodge from the barrel. But you’ll have a good supply of your favorite old-fashioned ready to pour whenever you like.
Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye (view at Drizly) will give you that classic old-fashioned cocktail you're after—just add to a glass with ice and the garnish of your choice. For a non-alcoholic version that works on its own or can be used as a base with a bit of your own alcohol, try Lyre’s American Malt (view at Etsy).
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Nicholas McClelland is a passionate whisk(e)y drinker who has written about spirits for Men’s Journal, Fatherly, and Inside Hook. His bar is deep with rare single malts, hard-to-find bourbons, and ryes, but he doesn't believe there's anything too precious to share with friends.