The Old Fashioned Manhattan. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

The Rye Old-Fashioned. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

My inclination is to simplify. And with this, one of the oldest and sturdiest of cocktails, the old fashioned, should be just that, as Brad Parsons notes in his excellent book Bitters, and in my original post on it. Sugar muddled with bitters, ice, American whiskey, and a twist. Brad laments that it’s too often gussied up and over-muddled with orange and overly adorned. Brad also notes a nostalgia for the gritty undissolved sugar, but nevertheless recommends simple syrup in his. I am like-minded on all counts.

Except. I splurged on these awesome cherries, “original” maraschinos. Also I really wanted to feature rye whiskey, here Bulleit rye, a whiskey on the upswing in America. And this great, great cocktail, the old fashioned, is perfectly suited to it. I’m doing what Brad suggests, only I’m adding a twist of orange because orange is a great seasoning, and the sweetness of the cherry with the dryness of the rye is fun. This is one of those perfect cocktails, like the Manhattan, that balances sweetness, with bitter, with citrus and, no measuring this time for god’s sake, add ice and fill the glass with whiskey. Enjoy the gritty sugar finale. Preferably mix two, to share with a dear old friend by a fire on a cold Friday eve.

The Old Fashioned Manhattan.

Making a Rye Old-Fashioned


Rye Old-Fashioned

  • 5 grams bitters (about)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (about)
  • Squeeze of orange, optional
  • Bulleit Rye, as needed
  • Lemon twist
  • One good cherry
  1. In an old-fashioned glass muddle the bitters, sugar, and a squeeze of orange, if using. Get the sugar dissolved (or use 2 teaspoons simple syrup).
  2. Fill the glass with ice, fill the glass with rye, garnish with a lemon twist and a good cherry.


If you liked this post, you might be interested in these links:

© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.



16 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Rye Old-Fashioned”

  • Allen

    My wife loves the Luxardo cherries, I was so bad last weekend, I’ll make her one and drink water.
    I read this blog during the week, too busy to post, but I enjoyed your reading. Cringed when you pronounced Italian, like my mom does; “eyetalian” instead of “eatalian”. What a pleasure, you should do your own audio books, I would buy them. Your reading is as pleasant as your writing.
    I am recommending a revisit to the film Indian Runner.
    My first viewing and I thought amateur hour. Harsh lighting, crude editing. But revisiting the film, it looks and feels very thoughtful. I appreciate it much more today. The theaters are showing crap, revisit older films, or see ones you have not seen yet.
    A lot of god food related films.
    This weeks cocktail looks fantastic, my wife will tell me all about it.
    Cheers, happy Friday all!

  • Edsel

    Happy to see that you’re using “real” maraschino cherries. The Luxardo ones are lovely, but awfully pricey. I just buy bulk Marasca cherries, drain the syrup, and cover them in Maraschino liqueur. After a couple of weeks they take on a nice complexity.

    • Bricktop Polford

      Pricey yes, but they don’t go bad, and unless you are like me and use a whole jar making Christmas cake, it’s only pennies a drink.

  • Carolyn Z

    Michael, your last sentence has two “with”s.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  • Steve

    I prefer Old Overholt Rye in my old fashioned, it’s gives the drink more of a rye backbone. Bullet is an excellent sipping rye but it’s almost too smooth to mix with.

  • andy

    (Responding to your tweet about favorite ryes)- I like Bulleit rye as well, but I have a real fondness for Templeton rye, which is made just across the border in Iowa. I do like a nice rye old fashioned too, but with blood orange, though naturally the cocktail I really like a nice rye with would have to be the Sazerac.

  • Terry Simpson

    I like Rittenhouse Rye – also High West Whiskey ( a small barrel place in Park City). Russel’s Reserve.
    For me, the ultimate is a Manhattan – simply put the finest drink ever made
    2.5 oz Rye, 0.5 oz Vye Vermouth, 2 dashes of home made bitters
    Up, of course

  • Patrick

    This is exactly my favorite drink these days, minus the fancy cherries. Do you have a favorite type/brand of bitters for this?

  • ruhlman

    thanks for all comments but patrick raises a great question. type of bitters here? i was sent celery bitters. wouldn’t work here. but citrus would. we need a book on bitters. wait! we have one! brad?

  • dan

    dude you got the cherries, twists, gram scales, and bitters… you gotta upgrade your ice game! that glass needs a sphere or a big ol cube

  • Craigkite

    All the comments on upgrading the ice, but nobody included a decent recipe for ice cubes.

  • Jay

    I would recommend Bittercube bitters, produced here in the Midwest (in Milwaukee.) They’ve got several varieties that come to mind for an Old Fashioned. The obvious would be ‘Orange’, but they also have a couple ‘Jamaican’ varieties. Jamaican #2, in particular, uses grapefruit, hibiscus, and island spices. I think it’d be great. Also, my overall favorite, Cherry Bark-Vanilla, makes almost any drink better!

  • Simeon

    My lady and I have also been on a bit of a rye kick lately. We use the same bitters as the ones you have in the photo, a twist of orange for sure, we’re down with the crunch of sugar crystals, but no cherry. That’s only because we are not committed enough to this drink to spring for the awesome cherries you got. And there’s no way we’ll get the cheap-o maraschinos. We use Old Overholt Rye. This drink was our official New Year’s Eve drink this year! We each had one, and fell asleep by 11:30. Lame!

  • Bobbymo

    Great to see you post about one of my old time favorites. Just one little bit of input; add a cinnamon stick into the cocktail just as you would a swizzle stick, I think you will agree- sensational.