Give your classic old fashioned a holiday vibe with fresh, seasonal citrus and festive spiced simple syrup. My Christmas old fashioned recipe is one you’ll want to drink all fall and winter long. This aromatic wintry cocktail is a smooth sipper with a nostalgic spiced finish you’ll love.
Christmas old fashioned isn’t just for holidays
If you’re looking for a sophisticated fall or winter cocktail, that’s not sick-y sweet or overly kitsch, this Christmas Old Fashioned is my #1 pick.
Every ingredient is present in this drink, meaning that you can taste them all, but none of them dominate the cocktail.
Instead, each element, from the warm, smoky notes of bourbon to the bright citrusy floral orange and the holiday nostalgia of spiced simple syrup create a liquid harmony you’ll savor on every part of your tongue. If that sounds like poetry to you — I’m here to tell you, it is!
Please don’t wait ’til Christmas to enjoy this old fashioned. It’s a perfect bourbon cocktail to sip throughout the fall and winter months. I should know. It’s been my go-to libation since mid-September.
My secret ingredient
The secret ingredient for this holiday bourbon old fashioned is a little of my pumpkin spice simple syrup. No, it doesn’t turn the drink into a PSL – promise. In fact, there’s no pumpkin in the syrup.
Instead, it’s made with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and ginger (essentially the ingredients you’d add to pumpkin pie or gingerbread) sweetened with both granulated and brown sugar. In other words, heaven.
This spiced simple syrup evokes a wintry feel that doesn’t overwhelm the drink, but adds a distinctive seasonal flavor.
Break out your muddler and jigger. It’s cocktail hour.
Ingredients you’ll need for a Christmas Old Fashioned
- Orange Slice
- Good Bourbon
- Pumpkin Spice Syrup
- Orange Bitters
What is muddling?
Muddling is the act of crushing fruit and herbs to release juices and essential oils into a drink or cocktail. It’s a blunt method used to extract the most flavor from your ingredients. Here’s a fun tutorial from Chowhound on the right and wrong ways to muddle.
Muddling orange slices for Christmas Old Fashioned
Normally, I’d use a cocktail shaker and large wedges of fruit to release as much juice as possible from the orange, however, for this spiced old fashioned, I’m more interested in the essential oils from the rind and just a bit of juice.
It only takes a few, firm, quarter turns of the muddler over the flesh and rind of the orange slices to release the citrus flavors and aromas. It’s not an orange juice cocktail. You just want the essences.
Use an old fashioned glass for this winter spiced cocktail
Old fashioneds are typically served in an old fashioned or double old fashioned (DOF) glass. That’s right, this ubiquitous drink has a glass named after it.
Also known as a low-ball tumbler or rocks glass, these cocktail glasses are are shorter, squatter and hold less liquid (usually 7 to 12 ounces) than a typical highball glass (10 to 16 ounces).
The reason for this is that highball cocktails are usually mixed with fruit juices, tonics or sodas whereas DOFs are mostly used for liquor rather than mixers… and 16 ounces of straight bourbon would give you quite a buzz.
You never want to fill a rocks glass to the rim. Instead give the spirits and aromatics room in the glass for your nose to inhale the warm, spicy scent.
Sniffing the aromas of a Christmas old fashioned readies your taste buds for the first sips — it’s an anticipation.
How to make a holiday spiced Christmas old fashioned
- Muddle the orange to release juices and essential oils.
- Add the bourbon, simple syrup, bitters and crushed ice, stir with a bar spoon.
- Garnish with an orange twist and Amarena, Luxarado or drunken cherries.
Holiday old fashioned FAQ’s
There are a lot of very good, smooth bourbon brands out there. I’m partial to Knob Creek and Maker’s Mark, but you can use your favorite bourbon or rye whiskey.
You can use Angostura bitters instead. I’ve also had this without the bitters and it’s still very good.
No. Maraschino are candy apple red and have a preserved candy-like flavor. Luxardo and Amarena cherries are sweet, very dark and rich, packed in a syrup that’s as thick as corn syrup, but with deep cherry flavor. Luxardo and Amarena cherries are more expensive than maraschinos but after one taste, you’ll understand why. The drunken cherries are homemade and less sweet, but with a boozy kick. Another good option would be Bada Bing Cherries (soaked in bourbon and sold by Tillen Farms).
Use a fresh orange and a vegetable peeler. Peel the orange in a strip about 1″ x 2″. Lay the strip flat on a cutting board and trim the edges with a sharp paring knife so that they’re smooth and even. Wrap the orange peel around your smallest finger to shape it and hang it on the rim of the old fashioned glass.
How does it taste?
You’ll taste the bourbon first, but the citrus perfume lingers in your olfactory senses and the heady spice blend is the final flavor of each sip, lingering on your tongue…
The cocktail isn’t saccharine, but you can add more of the pumpkin spice syrup if you like more sweetness. This holiday version of a classic old fashioned is so good, it practically begs for another sip. Two is my limit, though…
I started making iterations of this Christmas old fashioned back in September and this cocktail has been my hands-down favorite ever since.
But don’t take my word for it. My tasters (even the one’s who don’t normally drink bourbon) enjoyed this one.
“Oh, wow,” is the typical first response, followed by “You can definitely tell it’s a bourbon cocktail, but I love the spices in this. It’s perfect for fall and winter.”
Make it for yourself and see what the fuss is about.
Looking for more seasonal spirit(s) inspiration? I got you covered.
More holiday cocktails you might like:
- Rum Raisin Spiced Old Fashioned
- Winter White Cosmopolitan
- Ginger Cider Bourbon Smash
- Drunken Cherry Martini
- Cognac French 75
- Crimson Kiss
- Coffee Buzz Martini
- Bourbon Cider Punch
Wintry Spiced Christmas Old Fashioned
- Rocks Glass
FOR THE SPICED OLD FASHIONED
- 1 slice navel orange about 1/3" thick
- 2 ounces good bourbon we like Knob Creek
- 1/2 ounce Pumpkin Spice Syrup or more if you like it sweeter with more spice.
- 2 drops orange bitters we like Hella Bitters
- 1 Drunken Cherry or maraschino, Amarena, or Luxardo cherries
- orange peel
- additional whole orange slice or quarter wheel
- Put the orange slice in the rocks glass and muddle 4-5 times to release the juice and essences from the rind.
- Add the bourbon, pumpkin spice syrup, bitters and ice. Stir with a bar spoon to combine and garnish with cherries and/or orange peel as desired. Enjoy.