The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Majorly Upgrade Your Old Fashioned

If you're a "Mad Men" fan looking to channel your inner Don Draper (or just someone who loves iconic drinks), there's one cocktail you should be reaching for — a classic old fashioned, the preferred sip of the legendary fictional ad man. However, if your old fashioned is the exact same year-round, you're missing the opportunity to flex your cocktail creativity and embrace seasonal flavors.

If you're a fan of eating seasonally, you can level up your old fashioneds by extending that approach towards your cocktails. One of the key components of a classic version — and really the only thing that introduces any additional flavor beyond sweetness and spirit — is the twist of orange rind that adds just a whisper of citrus flair. Put that orange peel aside and think outside the box by perusing what's fresh at your local farmers' market so you can get creative and infuse whatever seasonal flavors inspire you. 

For example, consider reaching for in-season berries instead of oranges during the summer months. Blackberries are a great pick because they have both a tartness and a sweetness and pair beautifully with something like a slightly sweeter bourbon for a more refreshing sip. Although note, you'll want to strain your beverage after muddling any fruit for a smooth drinking experience. Top your drink off with a twist of lime rind instead of orange, a flavor that pairs perfectly with blackberry, and you'll get a fresh twist on the classic cocktail.

Tweaks for a cool weather adaptation

So you've tried out a summery take on an old fashioned, sipping the refreshing cocktail throughout the hotter months of the year. However, what about when the temperature drops and you're craving an altogether different type of flavor profile? Luckily, the old fashioned is equally well suited to cold weather adaptations.

Since an old fashioned is such a simple drink, you want to start with the spirit. Something as easy as swapping out your preferred whiskey for a spiced rye, for example, can give the drink an entirely different flavor profile. And when it comes to adding sweetness, swap out the white sugar you might use in the summer months for a dark demerara sugar, or a simple syrup infused with seasonal spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks, or even ginger for a bit of a kick.

When in doubt about which flavors would capture the season, just think of the types of baked goods you often see during the cooler months. An autumnal twist might involve apple or pumpkin, for example, while a winter cocktail could incorporate cranberries or rosemary. Adding some smokiness through a toasted garnish or even warming the drink up can also offer a unique take.

Ultimately, though, you want to stay true to the simplicity of the drink, no matter what upgrades you're envisioning — as Nashville-based bartender Jon Howard told Thrillist, "when making an old fashioned, the best advice I can give is that less is more."