How To Make An Old Fashioned Without Bitters

by Libation Staff | Last Updated: October 17, 2021

For anyone who is a fan of the classic Old Fashioned cocktail, the following text is for you, as here we’ll talk about making this iconic cocktail without the usual Angostura bitters. Well, believe it or not, you can make a perfect Old Fashioned without using the bitters. You can replicate the iconic flavor by combining fruit, liqueur, and sugar. Before we tell you the secret, here is some info on the traditional Old Fashioned.

old fashioned without bitters

What is an Old Fashioned Cocktail?

The Old Fashioned is a very old cocktail recipe, developed way back at the beginning of the 1800s. Throughout the years, the recipe was perfected, and several variations emerged. Still, the traditional Old Fashioned recipe has withstood the test of time and is now one of the six basic drinks listed in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury.

To make an Old Fashioned, place a sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass, saturate with bitters and add a few dashes of plain water. Muddle until the sugar dissolves, add ice cubes and whiskey, and then garnish with an orange slice, orange zest, and cocktail cherry.

As you can see, the original recipe calls for bitters, which gives the Old Fashioned its distinctive taste. However, here you’ll see how a combination of fruits can bring the same effect.

What To Use Instead of Bitters in an Old Fashioned?

To get the required bitter taste of the Old Fashioned cocktail, you will need to use muddled fruit instead of the usual Angostura bitters. When looking for a substitute, look for something cheap, quick, and accessible. 

One of the most straightforward combos you can use to achieve the sweet-bitter flavor is to muddle orange and maraschino cherry. These are readily accessible all year round, are cheap, and have the perfect combo of bitter and sweet. Don’t know what muddling is or how to muddle fruit? We’ll cover this also:

How To Muddle Fruit?

Muddling is very simple – it involves squishing the fruit, forcing it to release as much juice as possible. If you don’t have a muddler, you can use the blunt end of a wooden spoon. This is very similar to using a pestle to grind herbs.

There is a trick to muddling fruit that you can only learn by trial and error. Too much pressure will cause the fruit to release too many oils and make the drink too bitter. By pressing too hard on the fruits, you also risk breaking the glass and cutting your hand. The trick is to use just the right amount of pressure and muddle the fruit like a pro.

Here are some essential tips that can help you master fruit muddling:

How To Make an Old Fashioned?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of muddling fruit (not that there is something special in it) let’s talk about making an Old Fashioned. The recipe and method we’ll cover here are one of many you can find online, but this one is tried and true – you can’t go wrong with this one.

What you will need to make your Old Fashioned:


Muddle the orange slice with the maraschino cherry and sugar in the Old Fashioned glass. Fill up the glass with ice, add the bourbon and splash of club soda, and garnish with an orange slice. If you swap out the bourbon with whiskey, you’ll get a more traditional taste, as the original Old Fashioned is made with whiskey.

Some More Suggestions and Ideas

When making an Old Fashioned, you don’t have to keep to the exact recipe and the old-fashioned traditions. Instead, you can try some modern variations. For example, you can try using honey, agave nectar, and chai maple syrup instead of using sugar.

Also, you can try making non-fruity variants of the Old Fashioned recipe with chocolate or walnut bitters. Of course, these bring their own unique flavors, and you can adjust the flavor to your immediate mood.

The beauty of the Old Fashioned is that it can be made with so many combinations and flavors. You can experiment with flavor combinations and make your own version of the versatile Old Fashioned. Of course, you can try making it with powdered sugar, honey, or fruits like cherries, oranges, and even pineapples. Of course, don’t forget to share your recipe with us.