Cocktails/ Thanksgiving

My Family’s Signature Cocktail: The Old Fashioned

The Bowen family has been making the Old Fashioned cocktail at our family gatherings *forever.* Long before I had any idea what it was, before I liked whiskey, before the Old Fashioned became trendy again. Basically, we’re like the OGs of the Old Fashioned cocktail. I remember at every family event, my grandpa making rounds of these for “the grownups” and then after his passing, other family members presenting their spin on our beloved recipe.

But there isn’t actually a recipe. Everyone “eyeballs it” and does it slightly differently. My uncle Doug prefers simple syrup and fancy cherries, my brother Bobby makes the strongest drink, my mom swears by Seagram’s whiskey, and I prefer the *least* fancy Maraschino cherries and rye over bourbon whiskey. So to bring you, the world, this recipe, I had to sacrifice my liver to do a lot of testing. Wink wink.

The Old Fashioned is arguably one of the oldest recorded cocktail, dating back to the early 1800s. It’s fairly simply, at the most basic just bourbon, bitters, sugar, and water. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, spicy, bitter, and has an amazing smell.

The Old Fashioned is a strong drink, really meant for a nice slow sip. Which is why we add a splash of club soda (cue horrified gasps). This lightens up the drink and also increases the actual liquid volume so you have more to casually consume.

When you’re at a social event where one might hypothetically drink 2-3 Old Fashioned beverages over the course of the day, this is exactly what you want. Not that I know from personal experience.

So here is our recipe, which probably offends all cocktail snobs, but I hope you love it as much as we do. The best part might just be the whiskey-soaked cherry at the bottom of the glass! Cheers!

Variations: Adding a twist of orange peel rather than a whole slice is the most classic, and probably most attractive, method. I prefer granulated sugar but you could go with simple syrup, even an infused simple syrup. You can also get creative with the bitters. I have a couple different kinds in my bar, including an orange bitters. I love to use a single large square or round ice cube.

The Bowen Old Fashioned

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By Stirs and Stripes Serves: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes


  • 2-3 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
  • granulated sugar
  • bitters, such as Angostura
  • 1-2 orange slices
  • 1 cherry
  • club soda, chilled



Sprinkle granulated sugar into your rocks glass until it lightly coats the base of the glass. This is my very best eyeball method.


Dash the bitters until the sugar is fully coated, there should be no visible white left. A few dashes. Stir until the sugar begins to dissolve.


Squeeze a bit of the orange slice into the sugar/bitters mixture and add the slice to the glass, gently muddling just to release the orange but not mashing the whole slice.


Add 2-3 ounces of bourbon or rye, then stir the cocktail.


Add several ice cubes, then a splash of club soda, a cherry, and optional second slice of orange to finish and serve.

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