The Macallan Old Fashioned Recipe
The Scotch Affair Blog

The Old Fashioned

by LoveScotch on Jul 01, 2023

The cocktail that started it all, this humble medley is composed of four ingredients – whisky, bitters, sugar and water. Traditionally, these four complimenting flavors are mixed straight in the glass (appropriately named an Old Fashioned glass) and served on the rocks. This simple yet sublime drink has been charming drinkers since the 1800s, recognized for its elegantly modest composition and refined flavors. The Old Fashion’s simple recipe plays into its celebrity, but there are a myriad of twists that can add dimensions to this classic union of flavors. 

What’s An Old Fashioned Made Of? The Subtle Symphony Of Flavor

With such simple components, each ingredient is key to elevating this drink to create a subtle, yet almost symphony-like pageant of flavour. We break down each ingredient (there are only four, after all), exploring their part in the orchestra of taste.


The Old Fashioned, simple and uncomplicated, has stood the test of time as it seeks to showcase the flavour notes of whisky at its heart. While the Old Fashioned is more than the sum of its parts, with each ingredient working to achieve a transformative balance of taste, the whisky is the essence of this drink; the star of the performance.

While a variety of whiskies can be used, scotch is increasingly becoming a favourite in creating an Old Fashioned. The rich, honey-spiced oak flavours in The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old pair perfectly with the bitter-sweet components of an Old Fashioned. This pairing is a new way of enjoying a classic Macallan whisky.


Bitters are made by infusing a neutral spirit with a number of aromatics or botanicals – spices, tree bark, roots, seeds or fruits. Dating back to ancient Egypt, bitters were developed in the Middle Ages for medicinal purposes, then found their way into the concept of cocktails in the 19th century.

Like adding spices to a dish, bitters balance flavour and add depth to an Old Fashioned. Angostura can enhance the whisky’s woody qualities, and mellow out the sugar’s sweetness. Others can add an element of exotic flavour, balance the dark and richer notes of the whisky or enhance any additional ingredients (try combining an orange peel with a cardamom bitter for an unexpected yet extraordinary pairing).


Sugar is used in an Old Fashioned to balance the bitter and mellow the flavour of the whisky. The type of sugar you choose is important, because you need to mix it with bitters and water to dissolve.

The Old Fashioned once generally called for raw sugar. Today, raw or demerara sugar is best, but other types can be used. Cubed, crystalized and brown sugar require more mixing and a healthy dash of water, and brown sugar brings with it a fantastic flavour. For easier mixing, create your own simple syrup by combining two parts raw, or demerara, sugar to one part water. You can also try ready-made syrups, including maple, agave, brown or demerara.


If you’re using granulated sugar, a dash of water is essential (about a bar spoon full). If you're using syrup, whether bought or homemade, this will provide its own dilution. Many believe that water brings out the flavour in whisky, so top up their Old Fashioned with a splash of water (or soda water), while others believe the ice cubes offer enough dilution. You’re unlikely to weaken the drink with just a sprinkling of water, so select this as an optional extra.

Ice Cubes

The Old Fashioned is traditionally served on the rocks and serving cold is a must. The ice offers slow, diluting qualities and integrates all of your ingredients together. You’ll find as the temperature of your cocktail drops, the elegant marriage of sweetness and bitter flavour comes to life. Large, dense cubes are best as they have less surface area and melt slowly, meaning less dilution of the cocktail. The traditional size is a single, large ice cube that fills your glass, but varying sizes will suffice.

Some prefer drinking their Old Fashioned neat. Omitting ice will create a slightly stronger taste, and will not tamper with the flavours of the drink.