How to Make an Old Fashioned Without Bitters

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Learning how to make an Old Fashioned without bitters isn’t just a trick for the pros. It’s something anyone who wants an alternative from Angostura bitters can do. 

In actuality, an Old Fashioned doesn’t require this iconic mixture of herbs and spices. All you need to replicate its sweet and bitter taste is the right combination of fruit, liqueur, and sugar. And that’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Before we dive into some of these tried and true methods, let’s talk about the Old Fashioned in its most basic form. 

how to make an old fashioned without bitters

A traditional Old Fashioned

Whiskey seems to be the alcohol of choice, but you also use bourbon or rye. The traditional recipe uses 2 ounces of whiskey, followed by sugar, orange peel, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. 

Throughout the years, people have added soda water, powdered sugar, cherries, pineapples, and other sweet, juicy fruits. The result is a tasty, refreshing cocktail that appeals to just about anyone. 

So that’s the effect we’re going for here, which can be done in several different ways. The key is muddled fruit, which starts with picking the right type of fruit.

The bitters substitute

Muddled fruit is what you’ll be using in place of the bitters. There’s quite a few variations of fruit that you can use, but we like to keep things quick, easy, and stress-free. 

One of the easiest fruit combinations is orange and maraschino cherry. First, these are cheap and easy to find. Second, they create the right blend of sweet and bitter.

As for how to create that blend, that’s where the muddling comes in... 

How to muddle fruit

Muddling fruit is quite simple (and kind of fun once you get the hang of it). All you do is squish the heck out of your fruit until you get out as much juice as possible. 

You can use a wooden spoon, but spring for a muddler if you can. This is a tool that’s used like a pestle to grind herbs and fruit for cocktails. Using one seems self-explanatory: push down, twist, repeat. Get your hands on our favorite muddler right here.

However, using too much force can release the oils from the peel. That makes for a rather bitter drink, which isn’t the point of an Old Fashioned. Pressing too hard can also break the glass, especially if you don’t have a thick-bottomed cup. 

Here are 3 tips that can help you muddle like a seasoned bartender:

  1. 1
    Use a sturdy drinking glass, or a professional grade mixing glass.
  2. 2
    Use your non-dominant hand to hold the glass, and cup the top of the muddler with the palm of your dominant hand.
  3. 3
    Use gentle, yet firm movements, making sure to avoid slamming the muddler into the glass.

Making your Old Fashioned

Okay, so now that you know all about muddling, let’s get into our sweet and simple recipe!

Our go-to method comes from Maker’s Mark, famous for their Kentucky bourbon whiskey.

Start by muddling 1 orange slice, 1 maraschino cherry, and 1 tsp of sugar in your Old Fashioned glass. Then, fill three quarters of the glass with ice. 

Finish by adding 1.5 oz bourbon, ½ ounce club soda, and garnish with an orange slice. And that’s all you need for a smooth, bubbly Old Fashioned without using bitters!

If you want a more traditional taste, swap out the bourbon for whiskey. Or, use rye for a spicy kick with a dry aftertaste.  

If you’re feeling adventurous…

In spite of its name, the Old Fashioned has some very modern variations. These recipes use bitters substitutes like honey, agave nectar, and chai maple syrup, just to name a few.

You can even make non-fruity Old Fashioneds by using chocolate or walnut bitters. These are great variations for the fall, by the way, when you want something rich and savory.

The versatility, along with its sweet flavor, is the reason behind the Old Fashioned’s timeless appeal. Best of all, you can make it with a simple mixture of fruit and sugar. 

So, just to recap, if anyone asks you how to make an Old Fashioned without bitters, you now know you can use soda water, powdered sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or, like we did here, fruit like cherries, oranges and even pineapple.

Now that you know the secret, we hope you’ll be serving these classic cocktails at your next get-together. Or, make yourself a glass and savor the taste all by yourself!

Janelle Rogers

As an organic chemist, Janelle always preferred her drinks pure, like bottled water from the Pyrenees. That is, until a jazz saxophonist blew the doors of her taste buds wide open by introducing her to the joys of cocktails. When not tinkering with new blends, Janelle is runs a classified black-ops department of the NIH.