The secret to making the perfect old-fashioned whiskey cocktail, according to a golf-club chef

A close-up of a whiskey old fashioned cocktail

You can't go wrong with a perfectly-made old fashioned whiskey cocktail.

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Welcome to Clubhouse Eats, where we celebrate the game’s most delectable food and drink. Hope you brought your appetites.


In 1806, the first documented definition of a cocktail was a good slug of whiskey, a few dashes of bitters muddled with sugar and a splash of water, garnished with a lemon peel.

Since then, this old-fashioned cocktail has gone through some evolutions. Amidst all the variations that the modern mixologist concocts behind the stick nowadays, it isn’t any wonder why we all revert to the days of old. Historic, simplistic and delicious, if well-made, this classic will live on for another 200 years and more …

How to make the perfect old fashioned whiskey cocktail

photo of an old fashioned whiskey cocktail
An old fashioned cocktail is simple and delicious. Shaun Lewis


2 ounces bourbon or Rye
1 bar spoon sugar
0.5 ounce seltzer or water
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 Lemon zest

In an old fashioned glass, muddle the sugar, seltzer and bitters. Breaking up any clumps this will not only sweeten the cocktail, it will also give it a bit of rustic texture. Add Bourbon and some good cracked ice. Give it a good stir with a bar spoon and garnish with a lemon peel.

While the above ingredients comprise the classic, original old fashioned, early on, there may have been variations on the base spirits. Rye, Genever… but you cannot go wrong with this version.

It’s believed that during the Prohibition era, the whiskey wasn’t of the same quality, therefore you saw muddled orange and cherries enter the picture. 

As the decades rolled on, some of the ingredient proportions have been expanded, and not long ago I was served something more like a whiskey highball with lots of fruit in it. 

At Liberty National, this is the version that we find is best-suited for our members: 

Liberty old fashioned

2 ounces cask strength bourbon
0.5 ounce Gum Simple or simple syrup
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Reagan’s orange bitters
1 Orange Zest

In the mixing glass, combine the bourbon, simple syrup and bitters. Add ice, give a good mix (15 count) with a bar spoon and strain into an old-fashioned glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange zest. 

Pro tips for mixing at home:

-Use a great base spirit!

Whether you decide to go with bourbon or rye, make sure it’s of great quality. I prefer to go with bonded or cask strength for these spirit-forward cocktails. 

tom collins liberty national
The secret to making the special cocktail they’ll be drinking at Liberty National this week
By: Shaun Lewis


With a vegetable peeler, cut a nice healthy slice. Trim sides with a paring knife. I also like to flame the zest over the cocktail while expressing the oils. It gives a nice subtle hint of charred flavor.


Make sure your ice is relatively fresh and not sitting in the freezer for weeks on end. Ice sometimes has the ability to take on odors which can affect the overall outcome of your cocktail. 

Also, invest in a large format ice cube silicone mold. Over the duration of sipping this cocktail, a large cube will dilute the cocktail more slowly while still keeping the beverage chilled. 


This may not make or break a cocktail, but it does raise the bar. Having the proper glass for your cocktail is very important in the bar business. An old fashioned/rocks glass will somehow make this cocktail taste better. 

Another tip: While you can buy simple syrup, it’s very easy to make your own at home. Basic simple syrup is made by mixing water to granulated sugar (1:1) bringing it to a simmer, then stirring until dissolved. For heavy simple syrup, the ratio is 2:1.

I absolutely prefer using gum syrup for an old fashioned, and really all spirit-dominant cocktails that call for simple syrup. Gum arabic is flavorless, yet it adds a lush texture and a slight viscosity to a cocktail that just ties it all together. The gum also prohibits sugar crystallization, so once it’s mixed, you can store it in the fridge for a month or so. If you have the time, please try it.

Gum Simple Syrup (Demerara)

12 ounces demerara sugar
6 ounces water divided into 2-oz. and 4-oz. portions.
2 ounces gum arabic

In a small plastic container, combine the gum arabic and 2 oz water. Stir with a fork to combine, then cover. Let sit overnight or until the gum is completely dissolved by the water. There will be a light foamy layer on top.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and remaining 4 oz water. Heat gently until sugar begins to dissolve, then fold in the gum arabic mixture. Remove from heat, let cool and store in a plastic squeeze bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to one month.

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