The following gifts are ideal for Old Fashioned Lovers whether they want to learn more about the cocktail (and get some inspiration and guidance on playing around with the flavour profile, or get the right tools and alcohol for making a perfect Old Fashioned at home.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler's, The Bar Book outlines the history of the Old Fashioned:
Jerry Thomas's The Bar Tenders Guide (1862) was the first book of drink recipes ever published in the United States. The recipe for a whiskey cocktail is 3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup, 2 dashes of bitters, 1 wine glass of whiskey, and a piece of lemon peel - fine ice, shake and strain into a fancy red wine glass. It's the same drink we typically think of as an old-fashioned today. It is believed that once the word cocktail took hold, all drinks became known as cocktails (as they still are), and old-timers looking for that original formula might ask the bartender for a cocktail "in the old fashion".
Books For Old Fashioned Lovers
While some cocktail books focus on complex concoctions requiring obscure ingredients, true fans of Old Fashioned cocktails know the beauty is in the basics. Rather than gifting a book with dozens of drinks they'll likely never make, these books provide historical context and cocktail lore and are guides for exploring creative variations using readily available ingredients; perfect for the home bartender who wants to expand their skills without overcomplicating things.
I kept seeing The Bar Book by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, recommended by bartenders as the quintessential guide to bartending and cocktail making, so I finally got a copy of my own, which did not disappoint. The Bar Book is not only full of recipes but also breaks down all the essential techniques necessary for a good cocktail and the history and rationale for different methods and tools. The Bar Book is the bartenders' how-to handbook and would be a welcome addition to any cocktail enthusiast's home. An Old Fashion fan will love The Bar Book, not least because there are four Old Fashioned recipe variations but also because it'll tell you why (and how) you should pair your sweetener with your base spirit.
The Bar Book's recipes specify generic spirits - e.g. 'Canadian Whiskey' or 'Bourbon Whiskey' which makes it super easy to follow along, as you can use whatever whisky, whiskey, bourbon or rye you've got to hand (which definitely appeals to the part of me that hates buying a specialist item just for one cocktail). But sometimes I want to know what the experts recommend; what's their favourite whiskey to use in an Old Fashioned (or Manhattan or Sazerac)? This is one of the reasons I loved Last Call by Brad Thomas Parsons:
The Last Call is another book I kept seeing recommended by bartenders (Instagram mixology fangirl here). Last Call is a series of interviews with the guys and gals who make fantastic drinks for a living and asks what their last drink on earth would be. There is a touch of memento mori in this book which sets it apart from most cocktail books and makes for an endearing read. The answers are refreshingly and often surprisingly simple - there are two different Manhattan variations, two Sazerac and 2 Old Fashioned (one Brandy, one Rye). This book sent me down a rabbit hole of researching flavour profiles of the recommended ingredients ('cause these bartenders know precisely what liquor they want in their cocktail, and not all of them are readily available outside the USA). I've got bookmarks on half a dozen now-favourite cocktails (though the Featured Cocktails index is super handy).
Who knew Agnostura wasn't the only bitters out there?! Bitters are a vital ingredient in an Old Fashioned, which is why your Old Fashioned Lover should love this book. This is another fantastic book by Brad Thomas Parsons (see Last Call above). Half of Bitters details the history and importance of bitters in balancing cocktails and how to make bitters (and syrups) at home - a worthy experiment for any DIY mixologist. The other half is chock full of some beautifully photographed cocktail recipes. Bitters is a great companion to the Bar Book or a stand-alone guide to what was initially considered an essential component in any cocktail - bitters. There's also a chapter on how to stock a bar, with a list of the author's favourite spirits - an excellent and affordable list! - some of his suggestions are below in Booze for Old Fashioned Lovers).
Cocktail Kits + Accessories For Old Fashioned Lovers
An Old Fashioned doesn't require too many accessories - however, there's a good chance that your gift recipient will like them anyway 🙂
An Old Fashioned glass is the first requirement. We own a set of 4 Marquis Waterford Old Fashioned glasses - Roddy was the main reason behind this - while not an Old Fashioned fan, he loves this style of tumbler for having a quiet dram or two.
Traditionally, an Old Fashioned cocktail is served in a short tumbler glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass. This type of glass typically has a thick bottom and straight sides and can hold between 6 and 10 ounces of liquid (180 ml to 300 ml).
The use of an Old Fashioned-style glass is important because it allows for the muddling of the sugar cube and bitters in the bottom of the glass, as well as the addition of the ice and whiskey. The wide, flat bottom of the glass also allows for the aroma of the cocktail to be more easily enjoyed.
We own this exact set of Waterford Old Fashioned Tumblers and love them. They're very well-made pieces of glassware with an elegant cut glass design. At 11 oz they're considered a Double Old Fashioned glass, and the extra size makes them perfect for adding a large ice cube or sphere. We also quite like to use these glasses for sipping whisky, or employing them as water glasses when we have guests over.
LIITON Grand Canyon glassware features a distinctive mountain range design running along the side of the glass. The heavy base allows for versatility in usage, whether it's an Old Fashioned, mixed drinks, whiskey, brandy, tequila, gin, or even just a stylish and elegant glass of water.
Crafted from high-quality patented X1 Crystalline glass, it chills in the freezer in just 18 seconds, making it ideal for keeping your Old Fashioned (or perhaps a Manhattan) cold without the need for an ice cube.
Norlan's double-insulated Old Fashioned Tumblers are as robust as glassware gets and are not for the faint-hearted. Available in two sizes, the recently released 350ml Double Old Fashioned Tumbler weighs in at a very hefty 800g. The slightly smaller but equally dense 250ml Tumbler weighs a 'mere' 500g. Norlan Ruak Heavy Tumblers are made from non-leaded crystal, so there's no risk of reactivity with your old fashioned and they're large enough for a decent sized ice cube or sphere.
Stirred cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, are almost always prepared in a glass. Jeffrey Morgenthaler (The Bar Book) reckons it's because "when properly stirred, a cocktail looks appealing to the guest, dancing around in the glass with an occasional flash of silver or gold". The Yarai seamless mixing glass (500ml) is "one of the most found in craft cocktail bars".
This gift set includes a Seamless Mixing Glass, a set of stainless steel Koriko® Weighted Shaking Tins, a Koriko® Hawthorne Strainer, a 30-33.5cm stainless steel bar spoon, and a stainless steel 1oz/2oz (30ml/60ml) jigger with internal markings of ½oz (15ml), ¾oz (22ml), and 1½ oz (45ml) markings on the inside.
The Yarai seamless mixing glass is also available separately. All items are dishwasher safe.
These large ice cube moulds (square and sphere set) really take your Old Fashioned presentation up a notch for that professional cocktail look at home. I prefer the cubes in my Old Fashioned, but science says spheres melt slower as their surface area is smaller than a cube. Still, I tend to drink my Old Fashioned before it has much chance to risk over-dilution from either shape. I'll leave it up to you to decide which form you prefer.
Silicone Ice Cube and Sphere moulds are easy to clean, and the silicone's flexibility makes it easy to pop out the ice once frozen (unlike fighting with my plastic ice cube trays).
The Clear Ice Cube Design Tray by Ash Harbor takes your ice experience to a whole new level. The aluminium ice press mould has 8 designs and is available in several 'themes' including 'Elements', 'Seasons' and 'Holiday'. The included silicone tray catches any drips as your ice cubes are transformed in just 5 seconds per side with some very cool designs. It's the perfect gift for those who appreciate a well-crafted drink. Pair the Design Tray with a clear ice maker for maximum effect.
On the quest for the perfect clear ice? Directional freezing is the way to go. To make it easy, the True Cubes clear ice kit has a silicon cube tray with four ice cube moulds (2"x2"x2") that nest inside a secondary silicon tray, which all sit nicely inside an outer cooler box. You only need regular tap water to fill the top tray up to the fill line (this will also fill up the bottom silicon tray). Then, pop the whole unit into your freezer and wait for the directional freezing to do its thing. The process in which the trays work will naturally purify the water, resulting in large clear cubes that are visually stunning and also almost as pure as distilled water (no funky taste). Perfect for use with the Ice Cube Pattern Tray.
Booze For Old Fashioned Lovers
The key traditional ingredients in an Old Fashioned are Whiskey (Rye or Bourbon, though I've also had with Scotch), Sugar syrup, Bitters and an orange or lemon twist (I prefer ruby grapefruit, and I also prefer a rye Old Fashioned). Briana Volk (of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club - see Last Call above) prefers her Old Fashioned with Old Grand-Dad Bonded Rye.
My favourite rye is made in my home town of Melbourne, Australia (but is available at select stores internationally, and they ship to the USA). The Gospel Straight Rye is purpose distilled/matured for making Old Fashioneds (and Sazeracs) though it is equally tasty neat, or with their Solera Rye Whiskey. If you're in Australia or the USA The Gospel's selection of high quality whisky-based spirits (including whisky bitters) and whisky-cocktail companions, is superb (i.e. sweet vermouth and Amaro for Boulevardiers). The Gospel Straight Rye is available in the UK/EU via the Whisky Exchange.
The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey is "a full-flavoured, rich in spice, deep and complex whiskey that reveals more of itself as you sip. It has a medium body and intensity, perfectly balancing the rye spice and vanilla oak influence."
The Gospel are one of my favourite distilleries and this would be a welcome addition to the liquor cabinet of an Old Fashioned Lover. The Gospel also make a fabulous pre-made Old Fashioned cocktail, and sell Old Fashioned Kits (Straight Rye, Whiskey Bitters and Sugar Blend).
And if our endorsement isn't enough, The Gospel Straight Rye picked up Gold at the 2023 International Wine and Spirits Competition - the highest awarded Australian Whiskey and second highest awarded Rye Whiskey in the World.
Brad Thomas Parsons recommends the following Bourbons and Ryes in Bitters:
Produced by the Heaven Hill distillery, Rittenhouse Straight Rye whiskey is known for its spicy and bold flavour profile, and at 100 proof (50% a.b.v), it packs a punch. It is made primarily from rye grains and is aged in charred oak barrels, which gives it a distinctive smoky flavour.
The rye gives it a slightly bitter, grainy taste, but the sweetness of toffee/molasses and vanilla notes balances this. The finish is long and warming, with a pleasant smokiness that lingers on the palate.
Overall, Rittenhouse Straight Rye is a complex and flavourful whiskey perfect for sipping neat or mixing in classic cocktails like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.
Woodford Reserve is a high-quality, small-batch bourbon known for its rich and complex flavours, which marry sweet and spicy notes with a whisper of smokiness.
A combination of caramel, vanilla, and toffee flavours typically characterises the initial taste of Woodford Reserve. You may also notice hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm spices. The finish of Woodford Reserve is long and smooth, with a subtle smokiness that lingers on the palate.
Overall, Woodford Reserve is A well-balanced and sophisticated whiskey, making it a popular choice for sipping neat or in classic bourbon cocktails like the Old Fashioned or the Mint Julep.
Four Roses Small Batch is a premium Kentucky bourbon known for its complex and nuanced flavour profile. This bourbon is a blend of four Four Roses bourbon formulations (they have 10 in total), each aged for a minimum of six years. The resulting flavour profile is well-balanced and harmonious. The initial taste is typically characterised by notes of caramel and vanilla, along with a hint of fruitiness. As the whiskey settles on the palate, you may also notice a gentle spiciness, including cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove flavours.
Four Roses Small Batch is a delicious and sophisticated bourbon perfect for sipping neat or mixing in classic cocktails. Its complex and nuanced flavour profile makes it popular among bourbon enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates a well-crafted and well-balanced whiskey.
The two most commonly used bitters for cocktails, including in Old Fashioneds are Agnostura and Pechaud's, and are necessary additions to any cocktail cabinet.
Originally developed in the early 19th century as a medicinal tonic, Angostura bitters is now one of the most recognisable bitters, primarily used as a flavoring agent in cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and Manhattan, and of course, in the ubiquitous, non-alcoholic Lemon Lime and Bitters. It is made from a secret blend of herbs, spices, and other botanicals, by the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago.
Peychaud's bitters were created in the 1830s by Antoine Amedie Peychaud in New Orleans, Louisiana, and are a key ingredient in a Sazerac. Like Agnostura, the exact recipe for Pechaud’s is unknown, but it does include gentian root, anise, and an assortment of additional secret herbs and spices. Pechauds bitters have a distinct red colour.
Peychaud's bitters have a lighter, sweeter taste than Angostura bitters, with notes of anise and cherry. It is often used in cocktails that feature rye whiskey, as it complements the rye's spiciness while adding a touch of sweetness.
A close companion of the Old Fashioned cocktail is the Sazerac - fundamentally the same recipe but with the addition of Absinthe. Most recipes call for you to swirl the Absinthe in the glass and then dump it, but I find this a waste of good Absinthe and leave it. There's a good chance an Old Fashioned Lover will also love a good Sazerac, so why not give the gift of Absinthe (in addition to Pechaud's Bitters, the only bitters for a Sazerac). Brad Thomas Parsons recommends the following Absinthe and Absinthe alternatives (and Jeffrey Morgenthaler recommends using an atomiser to spritz the Absinthe and coat the glass without all the wastage):
More Gift Ideas for Old Fashioned Lovers
If you're still not sure what gift to get for your old fashioned lover, then have a look at our our Whisky Lover's Guide to Unusual and Unique Whisky Gifts, and our Alcoholic Gifts Guide.
Scotland Whisky Maps and Photographic Prints
Whisky Gifts, Wall Art and Man Cave Decor. Made By Whisky Lovers For Whisky Lovers