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How to garnish an Old Fashioned the old and new way

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The Old Fashioned is an original whisky cocktail. Three ingredients and a chunk of ice is all you need to make one at home.

Some stop there. But not us. When it comes to garnishing an Old Fashioned, you can go as simple or big as you want. There’s two classic options, but we don’t stick to traditions. Aside from an orange or cherry garnish, there’s plenty of ways to make an Old Fashioned your own.

From fruits and flowers to spice and herbs, here’s a bunch of Old Fashioned garnish ideas to experiment with.

Orange peel

The orange is the classic Old Fashioned garnish. Some say it was first used to mask the taste of bad whisky during the Prohibition era. But it turned out to be a keeper. Today, orange peel is a go-to garnish for tons of cocktails, so make sure to stock up.

The trick to getting the perfect peel is using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler that can glide through the rind. You want a long, thin strip of peel that you can twist to bring out the fruit’s oils. It’s called an Orange Twist for this reason. Avoid the white pith which will make the drink bitter, and instead stick to the washed, outer part of the orange. You can run it round the rim of the glass or drop it straight into your Old Fashioned. It’s best not to muddle the orange too much though.

Any ripe orange will do, but feel free to experiment with brightly coloured variations or a blood orange for a tarter taste.

Cherry

Cherries are the second most seen Old Fashioned garnish – again, likely to have been used to sweeten spirits back in the day. Try classic cocktail cherries, maraschino cherries or Luxardo cherries for different levels of syrupy sweetness vs the fruit’s natural tart flavour.

And if you want things even sweeter, use the syrup from the cherry or a dash of cherry juice to make a Cherry Old Fashioned that’s perfect for summer sipping.

Citrus fruit

Whilst orange is the most commonly used garnish for an Old Fashioned, there’s nothing to say you can’t play around with other citrus fruits. Lemon and whisky are a classic combo after all, as seen in another timeless cocktail, the Whisky Sour. Whilst lime also adds a refreshing, zesty twist.

Berries

Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries. There’s so many berries that work with whisky. Drop them into your Old Fashioned cocktail so they muddle with the ice. Or thread onto a cocktail skewer to release the juice into the drink. You can also replace sugar syrup with berry simple syrup for extra fruitiness.

Cinnamon stick

Whisky, bitters and sugar are the three main ingredients of an Old Fashioned. Each of which work wonderfully with natural spice. Elevate your cocktail with a cinnamon stick for extra warmth during the winter months – it’s a garnish that functions as a stirrer too.

Apple Cider Old Fashioned cocktail Ballantine's

Apple slice

Fruit slices are an easy way to liven up a drink. Take our Apple Cider Old Fashioned for example, which uses thin wedges of apple to enhance this fruity twist on the original recipe, that uses Somerset cider for extra sweetness. 

Try different varieties of apple like Pink Ladies, Granny Smith and Gala to get the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Or branch out into pears for a lighter version.

Edible flowers

Give your Old Fashioned a seasonal twist by adding an edible flower garnish. Primrose petals, orchid flowers, lavender or rose. There’s plenty of ways to add a touch of spring to your drink (just make sure to check what you use is edible before sipping!). 

Whilst flowers won’t add too much flavour, they definitely level up your cocktail presentation. And any aroma pairs perfectly with the whisky, which naturally contains floral notes as well as complementary flavours of honey and fruits. 

Gently place the petals on top of your finished Old Fashioned, or freeze them into ice in advance for a seriously good looking drink. It’s a trick we use in our White Orchid cocktail, a sweet, vanilla twist on an Old Fashioned.

Herbs

Herbs are making waves in cocktail creation. And we’re not just talking about mint. Whilst mint is one of the most common cocktail garnishes (we love it in a Whisky Julep), other herbs are also bringing in the flavour. 

Try more savoury plants like rosemary, thyme and basil for a different kind of sipping experience – we even use coriander in our Caledonia Caliente cocktail alongside a slice of red chilli. Add a freshly picked sprig to your Old Fashioned and bring the garden to cocktail hour.

Peach slice

If you like things peachy, then try a peach slice. Thinly chop wedges of peach (or nectarine if you fancy it) to add to your Old Fashioned. You’ll get a lovely aroma with every sip, a great addition for summer drinking.

Garnishes aside, there’s also plenty of ways to mix up an Old Fashioned. Try our favourite Old Fashioned variations or check out our whisky cocktail recipes to make at home. We’ve also got plenty more cocktail garnish ideas to try.

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