Old-Fashioned Simple Syrup

Old-Fashioned Simple Syrup is the easiest way to make your favorite whiskey cocktail. It comes together in just under 10 minutes but lasts for a month in the fridge. Just add bourbon!

closeup of jar of old-fashioned cocktail syrup with blurred bottles in background

Old-Fashioned Syrup recipe

Making a classic old-fashioned cocktail is relatively easy and only involves a few ingredients: whiskey, ice, bitters, simple syrup, and maybe some orange zest or a cocktail cherry.

Putting it all together can be a slow process. What if you could simplify the process even further? You can!

Old-fashioned simple syrup is just what you need. It combines sugar and water to make simple syrup, that’s then flavored with bitters.

Once you’ve made it, all you have to do to make this classic drink is this: Add some syrup to a glass with your ice cube, then add your favorite whiskey and garnishes. That’s it!

Making old-fashioned simple syrup is a great way to have ready-to-go cocktails for yourself or to make for a party.

Why you’ll love this recipe

If you love old-fashioneds, you are going to love this recipe. Here are a few reasons:

  • Make a cocktail in minutes with just two ingredients instead of five: syrup and whiskey.
  • It is a great way to make a semi-complicated cocktail in minutes.
  • You can easily use it to make a large batch ofold-fashioneds for a crowd.
  • It’s fully customizable with your favorite bitters, flavors and other types of sugars.

A jar of this would also make a great homemade gift idea for a bourbon lover!

closeup of a cocktail in a glass with out of focus bitters jars and cocktail syrup in background

What is an Old-Fashioned?

Old-fashioned cocktails are usually made with whiskey, though sometimes they are made with mezcal or dark rum.

These cocktails are said to be “spirit-forward,” meaning they are heavy on the booze. They don’t contain any mixers like sour mix or soda.

(If you see one on a menu that says it includes club soda, please run far away. Or at the very least order something else!)

The old-fashioned most commonly features a good bourbon with small amounts of added flavor, usually in the form of orange zest, a cocktail cherry, some kind of bitters and a sugar cube or simple syrup.

glass measuring cup of water, orange bitters, aromatic bitters and sugar in a copper measuring cup all labeled white text in orange boxes

Ingredients

You only need four main ingredients to make this easy old-fashioned syrup. Here’s what to grab from the grocery store:

Sugar

Simple syrups are made with sugar and water, but the type of sugar can be mixed up to create different flavor profiles. I use plain granulated sugar in the recipe below, but feel free to mix things up.

  • Simple syrup is made with granulated sugar, AKA white sugar.
  • Brown sugar syrup provides a deeper caramel- and molasses-like flavor.
  • Demerara syrup is made with a type of natural cane sugar that creates a rich, dark-colored syrup.
  • Burnt sugar syrup uses sugar that’s been caramelized to the point of burning and gives off a dark, complex, smoky taste.
  • Honey syrup is made with honey instead of regular sugar and gives off a light, floral flavor.

Simple syrup can also be infused with natural flavorings from fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. A few favorites:

Explore all my simple syrup recipes to help you dream up your own creations.

Water

If possible, always use filtered or distilled water for simple syrup. Filtered water has fewer impurities, so it is more likely to last.

Tap water works as well, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have filtered water on hand.

bottles of bitters laying on a grey and white stripe kitchen towel

Bitters

The classic old-fashioned recipe calls for a few dashes of bitters to add extra flavor and complexity to the cocktail.

The recipe below calls for a combination of aromatic bitters and orange bitters — the last two ingredients. Hella Bitters sells a two-pack of these two flavors, so pick them up if you don’t have them already.

Bitters are alcoholic flavoring agents made of aromatic plant extracts that are often used to flavor cocktails and drinks.

They can be made from a number of botanical ingredients such as herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, seeds, leaves, bark and roots.

You can also use other flavors of bitters instead of aromatic and orange — have fun with this syrup and make it your own!

Aromatic bitters

Aromatic bitters are the most common type of bitters and generally contain gentian, quassia, and wild cherry bark.

Classic Angostura bitters is the most popular brand name of these fragrant bitters. Look for its signature oversized label.

However, there are lots of other brands selling their own blends of aromatic bitters. Try them as often — if not more so — than Angostura. Start with the ones from Woodford Reserve or Fee Brothers.

Orange bitters

Characterized by their bitter orange flavors, orange bitters deserve a spot on your bar cart.

Orange zest is a common, fragrant garnish for the old-fashioned drink, so these bitters work beautifully to bring in some zesty flavor even if you aren’t using an orange peel.

Angostura also sells its own orange bitters, but again I prefer the small-batch companies. Try the ones from Scrappy’s Bitters or The Bitter Housewife to start.

jar of amber syrup with bottles of bitters, cocktail and cocktail jigger in the background

Best bourbon for old-fashioneds

The best bourbon for an old-fashioned really comes down to your favorite bourbon whiskey! 

Woodford Reserve, Angel’s Envy, Four Roses, Maker’s Mark and Bulleit are some of my favorites, and you really can’t go wrong with any of them!

Check out my Bourbon 101 guide if you need help picking a brand to buy. As I always say, use the best bourbon you can afford.

You can also use other types of whiskey, including rye whiskey, Irish whiskey, Japanese whisky or even scotch to make an old-fashioned.

How to make Old-Fashioned Syrup

Like its name indicates, making old-fashioned simple syrup is incredibly, well, simple! See the full printable recipe below, but here’s the gist:

a black measuring cup pouring sugar into a pot of water on the stove

Start by making a simple syrup on the stove. Warm the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar dissolves.

We are making what’s called a “rich simple syrup,” which means there is more sugar than water. This will result in a thicker syrup.

Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, measure out your bitters into a jigger. Stir both types into the simple syrup mixture.

Then store in an airtight, food-safe container such as a mason jar or glass bottle. It will keep in the fridge for up to one month.

overhead view of jar of old-fashioned cocktail syrup with bitters jars, metal jigger and cocktail in background

How to make an Old-Fashioned with Syrup

Once you have made old-fashioned simple syrup, it’s easy to throw together a quick old-fashioned cocktail.

  1. Add ¼ to ½ ounce of the old-fashioned syrup to a rocks glass (affiliate link) (also called an old-fashioned glass). How much depends on how sweet you like your old-fashioneds.
  2. Top with your favorite whiskey. Stir together.
  3. Carefully lower in a large ice cube.
  4. Some people add a splash of water next — that’s up to you!
  5. And you’re done! No need to add anything else, unless you desire a garnish.

Speaking of garnishes, let’s talk about some easy ways you can garnish this cocktail if you’d like to.

cocktail cherries in a jar

Quick old-fashioned garnish ideas

You can save time with garnishes, too, which is so handy if you’re making a batch of cocktails for guests.

Cocktail Cherries

Prepare your own cocktail cherries and store in the fridge for easy garnishes. (Or buy some — I like Jack Rudy.) Don’t use maraschino cherries though — they are too sweet!

Orange zest

A piece of fresh orange zest is a common garnish for this classic cocktail, but it can be time-consuming to peel a bunch of oranges if you’re making a big batch.

One quick idea is to garnish with a dehydrated orange slice or piece of candied orange peel instead of a fresh piece of orange zest. Both of these methods help to preserve that bitter orange flavor and still add fragrance to the cocktail without a lot of work zesting fruit.

Ice cubes

Keep large ice cubes or clear ice balls ready to go in your freezer. When I plan parties, I start early. Every time I grab one ice cube, I put the rest in a freezer-safe ziptop bag and refill the ice cube trays.

If you want to take things up a notch, freeze your cubes with the garnishes inside, like flowers, herbs or berries. You can even make ice from tea to infuse a new flavor into the drink as it melts.

jar of old-fashioned cocktail syrup with stainless steel jigger in background

Variations and substitutions

This syrup works as a wonderful blank slate because it’s so easy to customize. Give it your own modern twist. Here are a few ideas, but let me know in the comments below what combinations you come up with!

Sugar-free old-fashioned syrup: You can use your favorite sugar-free substitute. See this sugar-free syrup for more on which ones you can use.

Chai old-fashioned syrup: Use a trio of cardamom, cinnamon and clove bitters instead. Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Perfect for fall!

Ginger old-fashioned syrup: Use a combination of ginger bitters and orange bitters instead. Great for wintertime!

Lavender old-fashioned syrup: Try making this syrup with a mixture of aromatic and lavender bitters. For extra flavor, infuse some real lavender flowers to up the floral flavor. (See this lavender syrup for more.)

Maple old-fashioned syrup: Use maple syrup instead of sugar in this recipe for a sweeter flavor. This is a quick way to make a maple old-fashioned cocktail.

amber syrup in jar with cocktail jigger and other ingredient bottles blurred in background

How to Make Batch Old-Fashioneds

Having a party and want to serve old-fashioneds? Want to have old-fashioneds ready-to-go in the fridge without any mixing? I got you. Here’s my time-saving method that makes approximately 12 drinks:

  1. Pour a 750mL bottle of whiskey into a quart-sized pitcher.
  2. Stir in ¾ cup old-fashioned simple syrup. (You will have leftover syrup — use it if you need to make a sweeter drink.) For less sweet cocktails, use 3 ounces of the syrup.
  3. Pour ~2.5 ounces into rocks glasses with an ice cube or ice sphere. Add garnishes.

More Old-Fashioned Recipes

Love old-fashioneds? Don’t miss some of these recipes.

More Simple Syrup Recipes

old-fashioned syrup in a glass jar on a white background

Old-Fashioned Simple Syrup

Yield: 8 ounces
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Make a quick old-fashioned cocktail with this easy syrup that already has bitters added into the mix. Great for making batch cocktails. Makes 16-32 cocktails.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ounce aromatic bitters, such as Angostura
  • 1 ounce orange bitters

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Then stir in the bitters.
  3. To make 1 old-fashioned: Add ¼ to ½ ounce of syrup to a rocks glass. Top with 2 ounces of bourbon. Add a large ice cube and garnishes.
  4. For a pitcher of old-fashioneds (12 drinks): Pour a 750mL bottle of whiskey into a quart-sized pitcher. Stir in ¾ cup old-fashioned simple syrup with a wooden spoon. (You will have leftover syrup.) To serve, pour ~2.5 ounces into rocks glasses with large ice cubes.

Notes

Quick garnishes for batch cocktails: cocktail cherries, dehydrated orange slices, candied orange zest, fresh orange zest.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: ½ ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 35Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 0mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 0gSugar: 7gProtein: 0g

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