Vanilla Old Fashioned


This Vanilla Old Fashioned is my new favorite cocktail. I’ve had three this week. And in these late summer days, I expect to sip a few more. The orange makes it feel summery, but that vanilla bean fast forwards me to fall, and I expect I’ll drink a few more as we move closer to my favorite month, November.

A typical Old Fashioned starts with muddling sugar or simple syrup into bitters before topping it off with whiskey and a piece of citrus zest. I often see a maraschino cherry thrown in there, too. But the one you see here feels fresh and completely luxurious with that vanilla bean floating in the bourbon.


If you drink bourbon, you’ll love this one for intensifying everything you love about it. At the same time, I think it’s a good cocktail for those new to bourbon because it’s very smooth and shows off the spirit without hiding behind other flavors.

Muddling a piece of the vanilla bean pod with a slice of orange zest and Angostura bitters sends off dozens of black specks into the drink. The orange’s essential oils release into the drink along with the vanilla and bitters, enhancing the toasty vanilla flavor that oak barrels infuse into bourbon.

Vanilla beans are expensive, for sure. I bought these for $4 each and saw some others at double the price. One way to stretch them is to cut a piece off that vanilla bean garnish to make your second drink. Trust me. You can’t stop at one.

Since this is my drink of choice for the next few months, I’m glad I remembered this post from Alexandra. She mentions IndriVanilla, a company selling fair trade bourbon vanilla beans starting at 50 cents. Their premium beans are $1.50 each. I ordered just a little over a dozen and was told they shipped the same day. I can’t wait for them to arrive, and I’ll let you know how they turn out. Will you let me know what bourbon you stir into your Vanilla Old Fashioned?

Update: The vanilla beans shipped Tuesday night and were in my mailbox by Friday. Awesome!

vanilla old fashioned

The vanilla, bitters, and orange are here to enhance the bourbon. Cut off a piece from the vanilla bean used for garnish to make a second drink. You’ll definitely want a second.

1-inch piece of a vanilla bean, halved
1-inch piece of orange peel
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
2 ounces bourbon
orange slice

Muddle the vanilla bean, orange peel, simple syrup, and bitters in a glass. Stir in bourbon and a few ice cubes. Garnish with the orange slice (with a slit through the radius to place on the glass) and the rest of the vanilla bean pod.

Serves 1. Adapted from Food & Wine



8 thoughts on “Vanilla Old Fashioned

  1. Great photos. Great description. We make vanilla syrup often at the bar, it goes great in so many drinks.

    I think a syrup could make you get a lot more use out of the beans.

    Do a 2:1 simple syrup – 8 cups sugar, 4 cups water – bring to boil – then dissolve sugar.
    Add 4 vanilla beans (split down the line with a knife to open them up)
    simmer – COVERED – for 15 minutes
    pour into a container (add 1/2 oz acid phosphate)

    Hope this helps. Loved your post.

  2. Also – for the syrup – that is the straight recipe from our bar. Once you have the vanilla beans moved from the stove into an airtight container. Store it overnight. Then use a cheesecloth to strain.

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