What is the Difference Between Sweet and Sour Old Fashioned? Explained

If you’re a cocktail enthusiast, chances are high that you’ve already tasted an Old Fashioned – the classic drink that’s been around for over two centuries. But did you know that there are two types of Old Fashioned: sweet and sour? These cocktails may have the same name, but they are distinctly different from each other. If you find yourself struggling to choose between the two, worry not! In this article, we’ll explore the difference between sweet and sour Old Fashioned so that you can choose the one that suits your taste buds perfectly.

The Old Fashioned is a timeless cocktail that hails from the early ages of bartending. It is a mix of bourbon (or whiskey), sugar, bitters, and water, garnished with an orange peel. The sweet Old Fashioned, as the name suggests, is sweetened with sugar syrup, giving it a smooth, mellow taste. Meanwhile, the sour Old Fashioned is a citrus-forward drink that’s balanced with the sweetness of sugar. It is made by adding lemon or lime juice and a splash of soda water to the classic mix of bourbon, sugar and bitters. Both drinks have their own distinct flavors and can be enjoyed by sipping slowly.

So, when should you choose a sweet Old Fashioned over a sour one, and vice versa? Typically, a sweet Old Fashioned is preferred by those who enjoy a smooth and sweet drink that’s easy-on-the-tongue. If you love a good glass of bourbon and enjoy the complexity of flavors, then a sour Old Fashioned is right up your alley. With its citrusy tang and bold flavor, it’s perfect for those who like a little extra zing in their cocktails. Now that you know the difference between the two, you can confidently order your preferred style of Old Fashioned at your favorite bar. Cheers!

Old Fashioned Cocktail Recipe

The Old Fashioned cocktail is a classic drink that has been enjoyed for over a century. It’s a simple, yet sophisticated cocktail that is easy to make and customize. The basic ingredients are whiskey, sugar, bitters, and a twist of citrus. However, there are many variations of this cocktail, including the sweet and sour Old Fashioned.

  • To make a classic Old Fashioned cocktail, you will need the following ingredients:
  • 2 oz of whiskey
  • 1 tsp of sugar or simple syrup
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • A twist of orange or lemon peel for garnish

To make the cocktail, you will need to:

  1. Add sugar or simple syrup to a rocks glass
  2. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters
  3. Add a splash of water and stir until the sugar dissolves
  4. Add ice cubes to the glass and pour in whiskey
  5. Gently stir the ingredients to combine
  6. Garnish with a twist of orange or lemon peel

The result is a smooth and sophisticated cocktail that is perfect for sipping on a relaxing evening.

However, if you prefer a sweet and sour version of the Old Fashioned, you can make a few adjustments to the recipe. Instead of sugar, you can use a mixture of honey and maple syrup. You can also add a splash of fresh lemon juice to give the cocktail a tangy flavor. The result is a delicious and refreshing cocktail that is perfect for hot summer days.

Classic Old Fashioned Recipe Sweet and Sour Old Fashioned Recipe
2 oz whiskey 2 oz whiskey
1 tsp sugar or simple syrup 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp maple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
A twist of orange or lemon peel for garnish A splash of fresh lemon juice and a twist of orange or lemon peel for garnish

Whether you prefer a classic cocktail or a sweet and sour version, the Old Fashioned cocktail is a timeless drink that is sure to impress.

History of the Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned cocktail has been around for quite some time. It is one of the oldest known cocktails and can be traced back to the early 1800s. Back then, people used to drink their whiskey straight or mixed with water. However, a new trend was emerging, which involved adding sugar and bitters to the mix. This was done to balance out the harshness of the liquor and make it more palatable. This new combination was called a “cocktail.”

The term Old Fashioned came into existence in the late 19th century, when bartenders started referring to it as such. It is believed that the first Old Fashioned was made by a bartender in Louisville, Kentucky, who mixed a sugar cube, bitters, and water in a glass before adding whiskey. This concoction was then garnished with a slice of orange and a cherry.

What is the difference between sweet and sour Old Fashioned?

  • The main difference between sweet and sour Old Fashioned is the type of syrup used as a sweetener. In a sweet Old Fashioned, simple syrup is used, whereas in a sour Old Fashioned, a combination of sugar and citrus fruits is used to achieve a tart flavor.
  • Sweet Old Fashioned is considered to be the classic version of the cocktail. It is made with a sugar cube, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and a splash of water. The mixture is then muddled together before adding ice and whiskey. The cocktail is garnished with a cherry and an orange slice.
  • Sour Old Fashioned, on the other hand, is a modern twist on the classic. It is made with a combination of sugar, muddled citrus fruits (lemon and orange), and bitters. The mixture is then stirred with ice and whiskey before being strained into a glass. The cocktail is garnished with a lemon and orange twist.

It is important to note that the choice between sweet and sour Old Fashioned is largely a matter of personal preference. Both versions of the cocktail are delicious, and it all comes down to the person’s taste buds.

When it comes to choosing whiskey for an Old Fashioned, it is recommended to use a good quality whiskey that can stand up to the other flavors in the cocktail. Whether it be sweet or sour, the Old Fashioned is a timeless classic that is perfect for any occasion.

Below is a table showing the ingredients and steps to make a traditional sweet and sour Old Fashioned:

Sweet Old Fashioned Sour Old Fashioned
Whiskey 2 ounces 2 ounces
Sugar/Simple Syrup 1 sugar cube/ 1 teaspoon simple syrup 1 teaspoon sugar
Bitters A few dashes of Angostura bitters A few dashes of Angostura bitters
Water A splash of water A splash of water
Fruit Garnish An orange slice and a cherry A lemon and orange twist
Preparation Muddle sugar, bitters, and water. Add ice and whiskey. Garnish and serve. Muddle lemon, orange, sugar, and bitters. Add ice and whiskey. Stir and strain. Garnish and serve.

Enjoy your Old Fashioned cocktail and savor its rich history every time you take a sip!

Classic Cocktail Variations

Classic cocktail variations are an excellent way to add your own twist to a classic recipe. Some of the most popular classic cocktail variations include:

  • The Boulevardier – a variation of the Negroni, which swaps gin for whiskey or bourbon. It’s a great way to add some depth and complexity to the classic recipe.
  • The Margarita – a popular tequila-based cocktail that can be made with a variety of ingredients, including lime juice, orange liqueur, and sugar. It’s often served in a salt-rimmed glass for an extra burst of flavor.
  • The Cosmopolitan – a vodka-based cocktail that first gained popularity in the 1990s. It’s made with cranberry juice, lime juice, triple sec, and vodka, and is typically served in a martini glass.

Another classic cocktail variation that is gaining popularity is the sweet and sour Old Fashioned. This variation on the classic Old Fashioned recipe swaps out the sugar cube and water for a sweet and sour mix, which gives the cocktail a tangy twist.

Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients for the sweet and sour Old Fashioned:

Ingredients Measurement
Bourbon 2 oz
Sweet and sour mix 1 oz
Bitters 2 dashes
Orange peel Garnish

This sweet and sour Old Fashioned recipe is perfect for those looking for a tangy twist on a classic cocktail. Try it out the next time you want to mix things up and add some variety to your cocktail repertoire.

The Role of Bitters in Cocktails

Bitters are a crucial component of many classic cocktails, including the Old Fashioned. They add complexity, depth, and balance, and help to enhance the other flavors in the drink. But what exactly do bitters do, and why are they so important?

  • Flavor Enhancement: Bitters are highly concentrated infusions of botanicals and spices in a high-proof alcohol base. They add an extra layer of flavor and aroma to a cocktail, which can help to bring out and enhance the other ingredients.
  • Balancing Act: Bitters can be used to balance the sweetness of sugary ingredients or the acidity of citrus juices. By adding a few dashes of bitters, you can bring a cocktail into better balance and prevent it from being too cloying or sour.
  • Medicinal Properties: Bitters were originally developed as digestive aids, and many people still swear by their soothing and settling effects. Some bitters contain ingredients like ginger or chamomile that can calm an upset stomach or aid in digestion.

In addition to enhancing the flavor of a cocktail, bitters also play a crucial role in the Old Fashioned specifically. In fact, the Old Fashioned would not be the same without bitters.

The classic recipe for an Old Fashioned calls for a sugar cube, a splash of water, a couple dashes of bitters, and a measure of whiskey, all muddled together before being garnished with a twist of citrus. The bitters help to balance the sweetness of the sugar and add depth and complexity to the whiskey.

Bitters Brand Flavors and Notes
Angostura Spiced, bitter, and tangy with notes of cinnamon, clove, and orange peel.
Peychaud’s Sweet, floral, and anise-forward with notes of licorice, herbs, and citrus.
Regans’ Orange Bright and zesty with a pronounced orange flavor and a bracing bitter finish.

There are many different types of bitters available, each with their own unique flavor profile. Some popular brands include Angostura, Peychaud’s, and Regans’ Orange. Experiment with different types of bitters to find the ones that work best for your personal taste.

Sweet vs Sour Flavor Profile in Cocktails

When it comes to cocktails, one of the most important factors to consider is the flavor profile. Sweet and sour are two of the most common flavor profiles in cocktails, and they can make a big difference in the taste and overall experience of the drink. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the difference between sweet and sour flavor profiles in cocktails.

  • Sweet cocktails tend to have a sugary taste and a smooth mouthfeel. These cocktails are often made with sweet ingredients such as syrups, liqueurs, and fruit juices. Some classic examples of sweet cocktails include the Cosmopolitan, Mai Tai, and Margarita.
  • Sour cocktails, on the other hand, have a tart taste and a puckering mouthfeel. These cocktails are often made with sour ingredients such as citrus juices and vinegar. Some classic examples of sour cocktails include the Daiquiri, Whiskey Sour, and Sidecar.
  • It’s worth noting that many cocktails will have both sweet and sour elements in them, but their overall flavor profile will lean towards one or the other.

When it comes to deciding between a sweet or sour cocktail, it really comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer the sweetness of a cocktail, while others prefer the tartness. However, there are some general considerations to keep in mind when choosing a cocktail:

  • If you’re in the mood for a refreshing drink, a sour cocktail might be a better choice. The tartness of the drink can be invigorating and help to stimulate your palate.
  • On the other hand, if you’re in the mood for something that’s a bit more indulgent, a sweet cocktail might be a better choice. The sweetness can be comforting and satisfying.
  • When pairing a cocktail with food, it’s important to keep in mind the flavors of the dish. If you’re eating something with a lot of spice or heat, a sweet cocktail might be a good choice to balance out the flavors. If you’re eating something rich or fatty, a sour cocktail might be a better choice to cut through the richness.

Overall, whether you prefer sweet or sour cocktails is a matter of personal preference. Both flavor profiles can be delicious and satisfying, and it’s worth trying out a variety of different cocktails to see which ones you prefer.

Cocktail Sweet or Sour
Mai Tai Sweet
Whiskey Sour Sour
Margarita Sweet and Sour
Daiquiri Sour

As you can see from this chart, cocktails can have vastly different flavor profiles, even if they contain some of the same ingredients. So, the next time you’re ordering a drink or mixing up a cocktail at home, consider whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or sour.

Popular spirits for Old Fashioned cocktails

One of the key ingredients in an Old Fashioned cocktail is the spirit. This classic cocktail can be made with various types of spirits, but some are more commonly used than others. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Bourbon: This is the go-to spirit for many people when making an Old Fashioned. It has a smooth, oaky flavor that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the cocktail.
  • Rye Whiskey: Rye whiskey has a spicier and drier taste than bourbon, which complements the sweetness of the cocktail nicely.
  • Scotch: For those who prefer a smoky taste, scotch is a great option. It adds a depth of flavor to the cocktail that other spirits may not.

When choosing a spirit for your Old Fashioned, it’s important to remember that the quality of the spirit can make a big difference in the taste of the cocktail. Opting for a higher quality spirit may cost more, but it can make all the difference in your drinking experience.

Below is a table that showcases some popular spirits used in Old Fashioned cocktails and their flavor profiles:

Spirit Flavor Profile
Bourbon Oaky and smooth
Rye Whiskey Spicy and dry
Scotch Smoky and peaty

Experimenting with different spirits can be a fun way to find the perfect Old Fashioned recipe for your taste buds. Whether you prefer bourbon, rye whiskey, or scotch, the spirit choice is a crucial part of making a great Old Fashioned cocktail.

Different Types of Cherries for Cocktail Garnishes

Cherries have been an essential ingredient in cocktails for quite some time and are often used as a garnish to add color and flavor. But not all cherries are created equal, and picking the right one can make all the difference in the taste and appearance of your cocktail.

Here are some popular types of cherries that you can use to garnish your cocktail:

  • Maraschino Cherries: These are the most common type of cherry used in cocktails, and they come in two types, the bright-red ones commonly found in sundaes and the more delicate Marasca cherries. The Marasca cherries are usually soaked in liqueur and then packed in syrup. These cherries have a unique but sweet taste and are used to garnish traditional cocktails like an Old Fashioned.
  • Amarena Cherries: These cherries are smaller and slightly bitter and are commonly used in Manhattans or Negronis to offset the sweetness of the drink. They are dark-colored cherries with a firm texture, and they come stemmed and pitted.
  • Bing Cherries: These cherries are much larger than typical cocktail cherries and are deep red in color with a tangy taste and firm texture. These cherries are perfect for garnishing exotic drinks, and their size and flavor make them stand out in a crowd.
  • Morello Cherries: These cherries are dark-red with a sweet but sour taste. They come in either a syrup or brandy and can add a sophisticated twist to any drink. They pair well with gin and are the perfect garnish for a classic Gin Fizz.
  • Rainier Cherries: These cherries have a yellowish-red hue with a sweet flavor that pairs well with flavored spirits like rum. They are mostly found in summer and can add a seasonal touch to your cocktail; they work great for punches and fruity drinks.
  • Black Cherries: These cherries are much darker than the standard cocktail cherries, and they come with their stems to maintain their flavorful and bold taste. They are perfect for garnishing drinks like Sazeracs, Rob Roys, and other whiskey-based cocktails.
  • Wild Cherries: These cherries are less common, but they are still a great option. They have a tart flavor and are often used in traditional recipes like the Singapore Sling. They are perfect for people who love sour drinks.


The type of cherries you use for your cocktail garnish can make or break it; thus, it is important to choose the right ones. Experiment with the flavors until you find the perfect cherry for the drink. Remember, even the smallest detail can make a big difference in a cocktail.

Type of Cherry Flavor Uses
Maraschino Cherries Sweet Old Fashioned cocktails
Amarena Cherries Bitter Manhattans or Negronis
Bing Cherries Tangy/Sweet Exotic Drinks
Morello Cherries Sweet/Sour Gin-based cocktails
Rainier Cherries Sweet Rum-based cocktails
Black Cherries Flavorful/Bold Whiskey-based cocktails
Wild Cherries Tart Sour drinks

Ultimately, the choice of which cherry to use depends on personal preference and the cocktail recipe you are using. With various cherries available, there is something for everyone, so feel free to experiment and find the perfect cherry to garnish your cocktails.

What is the difference between sweet and sour old fashioned?

Q: Are the ingredients different for sweet and sour old fashioned?
A: Yes, the sweet and sour old fashioned have different ingredients. The sweet one uses simple syrup, while the sour one uses fruit and citrus juices.

Q: Which one is more popular among the consumers?
A: It depends on the taste preference, but the sweet old fashioned is more commonly preferred by consumers.

Q: Is there a noticeable difference in taste between the two variants?
A: Yes, sweet old fashioned is more like a traditional whiskey cocktail, while sour one has a more complex citrus flavor profile.

Q: Which one is better suited for whiskey beginners?
A: The sweet old fashioned is less complex than the sour one and therefore better suited for whiskey beginners.

Q: Can the recipe for sweet and sour old fashioned be modified?
A: Yes, the recipe can be modified to suit one’s taste preference, but it’s important to follow the general guidelines for each variant.

Closing Note

We hope that this article helped you understand the difference between sweet and sour old fashioned. Remember, different strokes for different folks. The choice of whether to order a sweet or sour old fashioned depends on your personal taste. Keep visiting our website for more informative articles. Thank you for reading!