Inside: An easy recipe for a winter take on a classic cocktail. This Holiday Old Fashioned with Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup is perfect for warming up those cold winter days.
The old fashioned. A simple mix of spirit (nowadays, usually whiskey), sugar, water and bitters. Folklore has it that this was the original cocktail. While I’ll never know if that’s true – the first time the word “cocktail” was seen in print was in the Federalist newspaper (Hudson, NY) in May of 1806. It was accompanied by a definition “spirit, sugar, water, bitters.” Sounds like the same thing to me, right?
Back in the day, if you ordered a cocktail “the old fashioned way” – your barkeep would take a sugar cube, add in a dash or two of bitters and a splash of water, muddle the sugar and slide the glass down the bar to you, along with a bottle of your favorite spirit. The customer would then add in as much or as little of the spirit as they wanted. So your old fashioned could be made with whiskey, rum, brandy, or even gin.
Nowadays, we assume our old fashioneds are made with whiskey or bourbon, unless stated otherwise.
My husband loves old fashioneds, and I tease him endlessly, because if there’s an old fashioned on the menu, that’s what he’s going to order 100% of the time. After a decade + of taking sips of his drink, I have to say it’s become one of my favorites, too.
And while he likes a classic version, I’m a bit more excited about the ones that are infused with a little more flavor and depth. So, as the days grow shorter and colder, I thought it would be fun to winterize this classic cocktail. Instead of a sugar cube + water, I decided to infuse some flavor by creating a spiced simple syrup.
With classic winter flavors like orange, cinnamon, and cloves, you’ll want to serve this spiced old fashioned at your next holiday gathering.
I also love a smoky old fashioned, and it reminds me of the fire we always have burning during our holiday gathering. I don’t have any fancy bartending equipment* but found an easy way to add a delightful smoky flavor to your cocktail without a cocktail smoker. Using a simple lighter, I charred the edges of an orange peel, and then used it to rub around the rim of the glass. The oil from the peel imparts a bright citrusy and smoky flavor to the cocktail.
(*Unless you consider giant ice cubes as “fancy bartending equipment.” These, I LOVE!)
My spiced cinnamon simple syrup takes just minutes to make. The recipe makes more than you need for a cocktail or two, and I love using the leftovers in my morning latte or a nice strong black tea.
Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup Recipe
Infusing a cinnamon-spice flavor into simple syrup couldn’t be easier. To make a basic simple syrup, you take 1 part sugar to 1 part water, heat, and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. I wanted to infuse some holiday flavors, so I used a bit more water so I could simmer the simple syrup with orange peels, cloves, and cinnamon sticks for a few minutes to make the flavor really pop.
Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup Ingredients
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
orange peel (I used about half the orange peel from a small orange)
Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup Instructions
Place a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and peels. Stir slowly to help sugar dissolve. Bring liquid to a light simmer, and continue to simmer for about 3 minutes, or until the syrup thickens slightly. I left the aromatics in the syrup while it cooled, to infuse as much flavor as possible. Strain the syrup into a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to a month.
Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup FAQ
How should you store spiced cinnamon simple syrup?
I store my spiced cinnamon simple syrup in a small glass jar in the fridge.
How long does spiced cinnamon simple syrup last?
It will keep at least 1 month in the fridge.
Holiday Old Fashioned Recipe
Arguably, the most important feature of my spiced old fashioned is the whiskey. Now, as much as I would like to take credit for being a whiskey connoisseur – I’m not. But my friend, Mark (usually referred to as Whiskey Mark) definitely is.
So I told him I wanted a good option to pair with a spiced cinnamon simple syrup and he recommended New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon. According to him, “it has a classic spicy flavor with notes of cinnamon” and is “strong enough to hold up and shine through” the strong flavors of cinnamon and orange.
So of course, I picked up a bottle and to my delight, it was pretty affordable and easy to find in Columbus, Ohio. I also tried a bit straight and found it incredibly smooth. I’m not the best at enjoying straight bourbon but, to my husband’s delight, have found a few brands that I can enjoy this way.
That being said, if you don’t have this particular bottle at home, feel free to use whatever you have on hand. I’m also a huge fan of Four Roses Bourbon and our local favorite – High Bank Distillery’s Whiskey War!
Holiday Old Fashioned with Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup
An easy recipe for a winter take on a classic cocktail. This Holiday Old Fashioned with Spiced Cinnamon Simple Syrup is perfect for warming up those cold winter days.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 tsp spiced cinnamon simple syrup
- 2-3 dashes bitters
- charred orange peel
- cinnamon sticks/orange peel for garnish
Take charred orange peel, and rub around the rim of a rocks glass. Discard peel.
To the rocks glass, add bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters. Stir to mix.
Add in a large ice cube, and top with orange peel and cinnamon stick garnish, if desired.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for my holiday old fashioned with spiced cinnamon simple syrup!