Food & Drink

Make a Better Old Fashioned with These New Syrups and Bitters

Courtesy of Old Forester

The Old Fashioned is an easy drink to make—but that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. The sugar might not dissolve completely or your dashes of bitters [] might be inconsistent. And because the Old Fashioned really is so simple, there’s no way to hide your mistakes. Now, though, there’s something that will make every Old Fashioned lover’s life much, much easier: Old Forester’s Perfect Old Fashioned Syrup.

Part of the bourbon company’s Cocktail Provisions line, the syrup was created by Bourbon Barrel Foods and Old Forester master taster Jackie Zykan. A blend of rich demerara syrup and three different types of Old Forester bitters, the syrup is designed to create the perfect Old Fashioned (both bourbon and rye work, though it was obviously crafted with bourbon in mind). All you do is mix a half ounce of the syrup with two ounces of whiskey, add ice, stir and garnish with orange zest.

But are the results really worth $8.50 for a two-ounce bottle? I tried them myself to see. I might not be a professional bartender, but I am a professional drinks writer who is a decently proficient home bartender. I can make an Old Fashioned—a good one. But the Old Fashioned I made with the syrup was objectively better than my usual work. It’s as close to Old Fashioned perfection as you’ll ever get at home.

Courtesy of Old Forester

Of course, if you are the type of person who likes to put a little more effort into your cocktails, Old Forester has something for you too. The Cocktail Provisions collection also includes three different bourbon-based bitters ($11.50 per bottle), each one inspired by Zykan’s family. “Old Forester has been a family company since its founding in 1870, and because of this I wanted to take inspiration from my own family memories and apply it to Cocktail Provisions,” she says. “My maternal grandmother, Millie, influenced the Hummingbird Bitters [which are floral and citrusy] as she always had hummingbirds in her garden. The Bohemian Bitters have a cherry tobacco flavor profile, and draw from my father’s name, Zykan, which originates from Bohemia.” The Bohemian Bitters also harken back to Zykan’s sense memories of her father who used to smoke pipe tobacco. As for the Smoked Cinnamon Bitters, they were inspired by Zykan’s grandmother who was famous for her whiskey cookies, which were fruitcake cookies flavored with baking spices and whiskey.  

The product line also features an Oleo-Saccharum Syrup (for easy punches) and a Salt and Pepper Tincture, which Zykan says adds “a slight smoky spice dimension and tames bitter notes.” Adding salt to a drink may sound odd, but bartenders have been using saline solutions to balance their cocktails for years. “This product really helps introduce this technique to the home bartender,” she says. She recommends trying a dropper of the tincture in a Boulevardier (or Negroni) for a hint of smoke and an ultra smooth cocktail. It’s the shortcut to being a better home bartender.