An Old Fashioned is a simple drink with little wiggle room. Sure, you can change up the spirit and make a Mezcal Old Fashioned or a Brandy Old Fashioned, but other than that, the only way to up your Old Fashioned game is with your choice of bitters. Luckily, there are more bitters on the market now than ever before. In fact, there are so many bitters, it’s hard to pick which ones to use. To help you narrow it down, here are 10 bitters that are perfect for an Old Fashioned.
These spiced, dark bitters are every bartender’s go-to. They will give you that classic Old Fashioned flavor by enhancing the whiskey’s woody qualities and mellowing out the sugar’s sweetness. Before you go bitters crazy, make sure you’ve experienced Angostura’s consistently delicious standby bitters.
Flavored with warming baking spices like cardamom, along with dried fruit and bark, these bitters (from one of the world’s 50 Best Bars) are like amped up Angostura. Dashed into an Old Fashioned, the bitters will bring out darker, richer notes, and they’ll stand out more against the backdrop of whiskey and sugar. You’ll definitely know they’re in there.
Flavored with cacao, cinnamon and spices, these richly flavored bitters are a must-have for many bartenders across the country. You won’t be hit over the head with chocolate flavors or even heat—instead, the bitters simply add exotic nuance to the drink. While they work with whiskey, they’re particularly delicious in an Old Fashioned made with aged tequila or dark rum.
Pimento is another word for allspice, so don’t expect to get any red pepper flavors from these bitters. Created by legendary bartender Dale DeGroff (aka King Cocktail), these bitters add holiday spice to any drink come winter. But they work particularly well with spicy rye or sweet bourbon in an Old Fashioned.
Another winter-friendly bottling, these dark, nutty bitters turn your Old Fashioned into an indulgent nightcap. They add an earthy dimension to drinks along with the illusion of creaminess. Try them in an Old Fashioned made with a powerful bottled-in-bond bourbon or any whiskey that’s finished in sherry or rum casks.
If you want to brighten your Old Fashioned up a bit, try cocktail magician Gaz Regan’s incredible orange bitters. A vibrant balance of fresh orange peel and aromatics, these bitters should already be on your home bar. But if they aren’t, go buy a bottle immediately. You can use them in anything from seltzer water to Negronis to Old Fashioneds—especially ones made with lighter whiskeys like Irish whiskey.
While any Hawaiian shirt-wearing tiki devotee knows about these tropical bitters, many classic cocktailians are missing out. Made with cinnamon, allspice, ginger, citrus peels and cardamom, they’re the entire world of topical cocktails (both Polynesian and Caribbean) distilled down into a few drops. Give your Old Fashioned an island edge by swapping out the whiskey for rum and using these bitters in place of Angostura.
While cardamom’s strong, spiced flavors can be overwhelming, they add the perfect je-ne-sais-quoi to a cocktail when used correctly. Be sure to express an orange peel into your Old Fashioned when using cardamom bitters—the citrus and the bitters absolutely sing together.
A little sweet, a little nutty and a lot reminiscent of New Orleans-style chicory coffee, these bitters turn an Old Fashioned into a brunch-ready cocktail. Pair with beignets and laissez les bon temps rouler.
Inspired by the granddaddy of cocktails himself, Jerry Thomas, these bitters are an homage to the original bartender. Made with ginger, almonds and tangerine oil, the recipe is based off one of Thomas’ own recipes. If you want to taste an Old Fashioned the way it used to taste way back when, give these a try.