A Mixologist's Top Whiskey Brands To Use In An Old Fashioned

Easy to make and even easier to drink, an old fashioned is one of the most influential cocktails of all time. With so little added to it — sugar, bitters, perhaps an orange peel garnish — it's a drink that really allows the whiskey to take center stage. And since it's the star of the show, the kind of whiskey you choose has a huge impact on the finished result. So which ones tend to work best? Food Republic asked an expert for some top tips.

For Jessica King, who is co-owner and operator of Lilou, Brother Wolf, and Osteria Stella in Knoxville, Tennessee, a particular favorite is something rather special. "Back in the day, when I was selling two cases of Elmer T. Lee a week as my well bourbon, it was my favorite whiskey in an old fashioned, or in almost any recipe that allowed for it," states King. For those not in the industry, "well drinks" refer to the most frequently poured (and often lower priced) drinks at the bar, kept easily accessible for bartenders to reach.

King's premium pick takes its name from Buffalo Trace's Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee, who is credited with re-inventing single barrel bourbon. With appetizing aromas of warm spicy clove, fragrant vanilla, and leather, and a taste that's both sweet and spicy with notes of honey and fruit, the rich flavor works perfectly with the bitters and sugar in an old fashioned.

Charcoal filtered Tennessee whiskey shines in an old fashioned

If you don't want to stretch to something pricey, there are much more affordable options which are just as delicious when you're mixing a classic old fashioned, advises expert mixologist Jessica King. "These days, as I can no longer beg, borrow or steal a bottle of Elmer, my old fashioned whiskey go-to is Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey made by the Nelson brothers," she told Food Republic.

A whiskey labeled sour mash, which refers to the common process of taking some fermented yeast, grain, and water from a previous batch and using it for the next one, King's pick of Tennessee whiskey differs from bourbon in that it can only be made in that state. One of the defining characteristics of Tennessee whiskey is the charcoal filtering step it goes through before barreling, known as the Lincoln County process, which makes it mellower.

Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal and aged in new charred oak barrels, which gives it a unique flavor profile — think cinnamon rolls or caramel apples. This makes it especially appealing in an old fashioned where it can really shine. "The charcoal filtering characteristic of Tennessee whiskey suits my tastes when combined with a touch of sweet and bitter," notes King. And since the whiskey has a hint of black cherry on the finish, try garnishing it with a glossy Luxardo maraschino — King's top cherry choice when making cocktails.