Avoid these mistakes when making an old-fashioned

Whether an old-fashioned is your standby drink that you want to make at home or you simply want to try the classic cocktail for the first time, it is a deceptively simple drink. But because the drink is so simple, it is even more important to get all of the components right. The drink only consists of bitters, bourbon, sugar, fruit, and ice. However, getting the bitters, the type of bourbon, and the fruit right can actually be tricky.

One mistake people often make when making an old-fashioned comes down to how they handle the fruit. The only fruit you should use in this classic is a slice of orange and a cherry for garnish. All you need to do is twist the orange peel to release the oils into the glass and then drop it in. The cherry should also only be added as a garnish at the end so that both complement the drink's flavor profile rather than take it over (via Bourbon and Oak). 

Another tip when it comes to the fruit is to avoid muddling it. Dan Rook of Ever Bar says (via Thrillist), "Do not muddle a bleached red cherry and an orange slice with sugar in the glass or add soda. This is a method evolved over time out of convenience and having new toys to play with, but it ultimately devolved the cocktail into an imbalanced mess." So, take the easier route for an ultimately better drink.

Get the bitters and bourbon right

The bitters you use are another ingredient that people often get wrong. Most people believe they have the wrong kind of bitters if their cocktail doesn't turn out right, but the actual mistake is using too much or not enough. Usually, four to five dashes are best, and don't forget to roll it around the inside of the glass to coat it. It's also a good idea to toss the remainder of the bitters out and leave behind just the coating, according to Bourbon and Oak.

Another tip is to just use a little bit of bitters to begin with. "Far too often, I see bartenders adding copious amounts of bitters and half an ounce or more of sugar into the beverage," said Jon Howard of Nashville's Henley bar. "Two dashes of bitters is all that's required to add a touch of spice and balance out the sugar, and I also keep it simple by using the industry standard, Angostura. To balance out the bitters, it only takes one bar spoon of a simple syrup that is equal parts sugar to water or one sugar cube soaked in the two dashes of bitters that's then muddled to balance out the iconic beverage."

Finally, choosing the right bourbon is key too. Some like to use a high-proof bourbon, but something that isn't quite so strong, usually between 80 to 90 proof, prevents overpowering the drink. Using a bourbon with caramel or vanilla notes rounds out the flavor profile of the drink well, too.