The Old Fashioned is the original cocktail—the one that started it all! As the mixture of whiskey, bitters, sugar, and ice spawned ever more elaborate progeny, it became known as simply “an Old Fashioned cocktail.” Celebrate this easy-to-mix drink by allowing guests to choose their own adventure—selecting from a variety of sweeteners, bitters, and whiskeys. Guests will enjoy mixing and discovering countless variations of this whiskey-forward cocktail, as well as sampling each other’s renditions.
You’ll need to create four ingredient stations that guide guests along on their cocktail adventure. Try to offer at least two choices for each element of the drink. The more options, the greater the number of potential variations! Also supply jiggers, spoons, and eyedroppers for measuring.
Explain this simple recipe—2 oz. whiskey, 1 bar spoon sweetener, 2 dashes bitters, and garnish—to guests as they arrive; display it on the table, or print recipe cards for guests to take home and keep. Once you’ve gone over the basics of building the drink, guests will be equipped and excited to serve themselves.
Select a Sweetener
Sugar cubes are traditional, while liquid sweeteners are quick and easy for guests to pour.
• White or brown sugar cubes (or make simple syrup by mixing 1:1 sugar with warm water until dissolved.)
• Honey syrup (mix 1:1 honey with warm water until consistent)
• Agave nectar syrup (mix 1:1 agave nectar with warm water until consistent)
• Maple syrup
Add bitters—a dash or two
Flavors and varieties of bitters are endless. Classic brands are widely available, while specialty suppliers offer a rich palette of inventive flavors.
• Include a classic like Angostura.
• Seek out fun flavors like Bittered Sling Malagasy Chocolate.
• Grab a variety pack from a specialist like The Bitter Truth.
Ice and Whiskey
This cocktail really shines when served over a single sparkling, large cube of ice. You can make clear, cocktail bar-quality ice with silicone ice molds, like the Eparé Clear Ice System ($40), or using the directional-freezing method.
Whiskey selections should include both bourbon and rye, representing a variety of styles, producers, and proofs.
Label each bottle with simple flavor guidance like “sweet” for bourbon, “spicy” for rye, “smooth” for wheated bourbon, or even “strong” for barrel proof. Other fun labels to spark conversation might include descriptions like “VIP pour” or “house favorite.”
Stir and Garnish
Offer stylish cocktail picks and a few different premade garnishes, or even an entire cherry bar. Guests can choose one—or all!
• Colorful combinations of citrus zests like lemon and orange
• Maraschino cherries from Luxardo ($20)
• Woodford Reserve Bourbon cherries ($16)
• Filthy Black Cherry Italian Amarena wild cherries ($15)
Old Fashioned Mix Off
After guests have had a chance to tinker with mixing a cocktail or two, select a judge and blindfold them to ensure impartiality. Using a small stirrer or straw, have guests who want to compete offer a taste of their cocktail to the designated judge, who will then declare a winner. Have the winner share their recipe for anyone who wants to replicate it.