One of the most classic cocktails of all time—the Old Fashioned—is a simple, yet timeless, drink which relies on 3 pillar ingredients: whiskey, bitters, and sugar.
Not all sugar is created equal, and choosing the right kind is key to making the best cocktail possible.
Different types of sugars will alter the final outcome of your drink, so being aware of the differences that exist in distinct types of sugar will better help you to make the right decision when it comes to choosing one for your Old Fashioned.
So, what is the best sugar for an Old Fashioned? Brown demerara sugar cubes are the best for an Old Fashioned. Most mixologists agree that the classic recipe calls for brown demerara sugar cubes. Sugar cubes are already measured and will allow for the perfect ratios to whiskey and bitters every time.
If you read on, you’ll discover the 5 best sugars for an Old Fashioned. We’ll outline the differences that each type of sugar will create in your cocktail, along with answering some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to making an Old Fashioned.
The Best Sugar For An Old Fashioned
Below is a list of our favorite sugars to use when making an Old Fashioned.
|1.||La Perruche Brown Sugar Cubes||Large-grain, unrefined brown sugar cubes|
|2.||Roland Demerara Sugar Cubes||Raw, unprocessed brown sugar cubes|
|3.||Gilway Demerara Sugar Cubes||Pure cane brown sugar cubes|
|4.||La Perruche White Sugar Cubes||Rough cut, pure cane white sugar cubes|
|5.||Pratt Standard True Rich Simple Syrup||Concentrated simple syrup made from raw demerara sugar|
Choosing between white or brown sugar cubes and simple syrup isn’t easy, but the rest of this article will make your options clear and well-defined, allowing you to choose the right sugar for your perfect cocktail.
1. La Perruche Brown Sugar Cubes
Cultivating in a French territory called Reunion Island, La Perruche produces high-quality cane sugar cubes.
These unrefined brown sugar cubes are a mix of pure and caramelized cane sugar and offer a hint of vanilla and molasses, which will give your cocktail a unique depth and flavor.
Additionally, its bigger grain will help to pull the juice and oils from the fruit, adding further complexity to the drink.
Many people swear by using brown sugar in their Old Fashions because of the caramelly notes that it adds, rather than the flatter, sweeter effect that white sugar has.
However, it will be key to fully dissolve this large-grain sugar, considering that if you don’t, the grains will settle at the bottom of the glass.
2. Roland Demerara Sugar Cubes
Another raw, unprocessed sugar cube, these Roland Rough Cut cubes will also add complexity to your Old Fashioned without making it overly sweet.
Demerara just means that the sugar is unprocessed, and these pure cane sugar cubes are rich in flavor without the overwhelming caramel notes.
The brown sugar pairs well with whiskey, and its understated sweetness will offer the perfect balance.
Unlike certain brown sugars, it doesn’t have a strong hint of molasses, keeping its flavor simpler.
3. Gilway Demerara Sugar Cubes
Gilway raw demerara sugar cubes sure make a great Old Fashioned.
Similar to the Roland Rough Cut cubes, they are made of pure cane sugar, offering an understated sweetness to your cocktail.
In contrast to the Roland cubes, they aren’t rough cut, meaning that you’ll get a more exact measurement each time.
This also means that they are more compact, so you may have to spend more time breaking them down with the bitters and a splash of water so that they fully dissolve.
4. La Perruche White Sugar Cubes
La Perruche also makes white sugar cubes, which will offer a distinct flavor from brown sugar cubes.
White sugar cubes lack the caramel and molasses notes that brown sugar usually adds to a cocktail.
Though they both come from cane sugar, brown sugar is unrefined, while white sugar is processed to remove the molasses, which in turn eliminates the brown coloring.
If you’re someone that prefers a sweeter drink, white sugar cubes are a good option for you.
Although not our first choice for an Old Fashioned, these white sugar cubes are perfect for a Caipirinha.
5. Pratt Standard True Rich Simple Syrup
Though a sugar cube is the traditional sweetener in an Old Fashioned, we can’t deny the convenience of simple syrup.
While sugar requires minutes of muddling, the simple syrup will incorporate instantly into the cocktail.
This Pratt Standard True Rich simple syrup is made from demerara sugar, offering the depth and complexity of brown sugar without all the hard work.
Its molasses-like texture will blend well into your drink, creating a unique result.
This simple syrup is extremely rich, so you’ll only have to use about half of the amount of simple syrup that you would normally use, meaning that one 16-ounce bottle provides enough for up to 50 cocktails.
What are the main ingredients in an Old Fashioned?
After all of this, you may be wondering what, other than sugar, goes into an Old Fashioned.
This cocktail is made up of 3 key ingredients:
- 2 ounces of whiskey
- 3 dashes of bitters
- 1 teaspoon sugar/1 teaspoon simple syrup/1 sugar cube.
You can use any type of whiskey you’d like, Bourbon and Rye whiskey being especially popular, but you’ll want to be sure to use the highest-quality liquor possible, as it is the main ingredient in this cocktail.
When it comes to the bitters, the Old Fashioned default is Angostura bitters.
However, feel free to play around—unique bitters flavors (such as spiced cherry, orange, or chocolate) will create a unique cocktail.
And, last but not least, sugar is a key ingredient, but we’ve already heard plenty about that.
What else goes into an Old Fashioned?
Aside from whiskey, bitters, and sugar, most versions of an Old Fashioned are made with some sort of fruit, normally an orange peel.
However, a lemon peel can be subsisted, and some drinkers even choose to include a maraschino cherry as a garnish.
A splash of water is especially important if you’re using a sugar cube, which will help with dissolving the sugar, and some people even use soda water if you have it on hand (though purists will claim this is sacrilege).
Just be sure not to overdo it.
An Old Fashioned is served on the rocks, so the melting ice will dilute the drink over time. The bigger the ice cubes, the better—a larger surface area means a slower melting time.
How can I be sure to fully dissolve my sugar?
If you’re not using simple syrup, it is very important to fully dissolve your sugar, as a failure to do so will result in a lump of unincorporated sugar at the bottom of your glass and a very strong drink.
Using a pair of sugar tongs, drop your sugar cube (or a teaspoon of sugar) at the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass with your bitters.
Now, add a little bit of water and muddle with a cocktail muddler until your sugar is completely dissolved, which can take up to five minutes.
The real secret to fully dissolving your sugar? Patience!
Should I use brown sugar or white sugar?
Brown sugar, also known as demerara sugar, is the traditional sugar used in the Old Fashioned.
The caramel and molasses notes pair well with dark liquor, normally Rye or Bourbon.
If you don’t happen to have brown sugar on hand, white sugar can be substituted, though the same rules do apply—be sure to muddle it enough to ensure that it is fully dissolved into the bitters before adding your whiskey.
Can I use simple syrup?
We noted above that simple syrup was not used in the original Old Fashioned recipe, but it can be a great timesaver nowadays (no more muddling!) if you use the right one.
You can either purchase or make a simple syrup that comes from demerara sugar rather than white, processed sugar.
That will ensure that you’ll get the complex caramel notes and depth that raw sugar offers if that’s what you value in an Old Fashioned.
How sweet should an Old Fashioned be?
Though it is a strong cocktail, an Old Fashioned is definitely on the sweeter side.
That being said, an Old Fashioned should never be too sweet.
So, if you feel as though the classic Old Fashioned recipe is too strong for you, stray away from adding more sugar or simple syrup to tone it down.
Instead, use smaller ice cubes or let the ice cubes melt a bit before drinking, as this will dilute and weaken the drink.