Vanilla Old Fashioned Cocktail

A memory that never escapes me: seeing my dad drinking an Old Fashioned on Thanksgiving Day. He seemed to switch up his summer drink of choice (beer) just in time for having a cocktail at dinner with the big meal of the year, and that habit continued through the holiday festivities. He and my mother both liked simple cocktails; they might completely eschew some of the drinks I make today. They liked Martinis, Manhattans and Old Fashioned cocktails…and of course, beer. This Vanilla Old Fashioned Cocktail might fit their profile of acceptable choices and I would like to believe they would enjoy it.

The first use of the name “Old Fashioned” for a whiskey cocktail was said to have been at the Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky. The recipe was purportedly invented by a bartender at that club in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller, who brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in New York City.

Common garnishes for an Old Fashioned include an orange slice and/or a maraschino cherry, although these modifications were introduced around 1930, some time after the original recipe was invented. Even the oldest recipes mention orange zest for flavor, but the practice of muddling orange and other fruit into an Old Fashioned gained prevalence much later, as late as the 1990s. I prefer to not muddle any fruit into this drink, but do love adding plenty of orange flavor from bitters, some of the orange oil and the final citrus garnish to make its presence known.

The addition of the vanilla notes to this cocktail's typical whiskey, sugar and orange was most enjoyable.

Vanilla Old Fashioned Cocktail


  • 0.25 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 3 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Orange Peel Twist
  • 1.5 oz. vanilla whiskey


  1. In old-fashioned glass, combine simple syrup and bitters.
  2. Fill glass halfway with ice, then stir.
  3. Add enough ice to fill glass.
  4. Squeeze orange peel over glass to extract oils, add peel to glass, and add whiskey.
  5. Stir just until drink is cold and serve.


A version of this post, Vanilla Old Fashioned Cocktail, first appeared first on Creative Culinary | A Denver, Colorado Food and Cocktail Blog.

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