Old Fashioned with Black Walnut Bitters

Makes 1 cocktail

You have to love Canadian weather. Right now the east coast and central provinces are getting hammered with snow, while out here on the west coast it is a balmy 9°C and we’re experiencing “sub-tropical moisture”. In other words, it’s raining – a lot. In any case, it seems like no matter where you are in the country Wiarton Willie’s prediction of an early spring, just a few days ago, was but a fleeting hope.

Fortunately, in the depths of winter, after a long day at work there is nothing quite like a good cocktail to warm up from the inside out. With this in mind, today I bring you Brett’s take on a classic bourbon old fashioned.

Craft cocktails have made a big comeback in the past few years and we are lucky that a handful of bars right here in Vancouver are, in-part, responsible for this resurgence.  One in particular is a favourite of ours, and also happens to be my former place of employment, Pourhouse. Often when I was working Brett would come down to the restaurant and enjoy an old fashioned – or a few – at the bar. Today’s recipe is inspired by Pourhouse and their dedication to ensuring that the highest quality ingredients, time, and love go into their cocktails. I have fond memories of working with this amazing group of people, all of whom take pride in what they do and genuinely enjoy coming to work every day. Their passion shows in the food, drinks, and service and it’s still one of my favourite places to go in the city for that reason.

The key to making a good old fashioned is patience. It’s a simple cocktail with few ingredients, so the method of preparation is important. In particular, the old fashioned take time because it relies on optimal dilution from melting ice. You’ll notice in the ingredients it is recommended to use a large ice cube for serving, and this is because the bigger the ice cube, the slower it will melt. For the bitters, we keep a few different types on hand, but we particularly love the flavour of Fee Brothers black walnut bitters.  One departure from the classic that we do take is to add a bit more bitters than is typical, simply because we love the rich nuttiness is that the black walnut imparts.

Finally, the cookies you see pictured in this post were a bit of a happy accident. I was making them when Brett came home from work one night and commented that I thought the orange essence in the cookies would actually complement the old fashioned very well. Sure enough, along with the sugar and honey in the cookies, they pair perfectly with the old fashioned. The cookie recipe can be found here. Note:  for the cookies I use dark brown cane sugar for extra depth in flavour, reduce the quantity of sugar by about half, and add an extra tablespoon or two of honey instead, but the original recipe is excellent in its own right.

Cheers to boozy winter warm-ups and, evidently, another six weeks of winter.


  • 2 ½ oz bourbon (your choice)
  • 1 sugar cube (preferably cane sugar)
  • A few dashes of black walnut bitters
  • 4-5 Regular size ice cubes (ice quality is important)
  • 1 Large ice cube for serving
  • 1 strip of orange rind, pith removed*

*For the perfect orange strip, use a vegetable peeler to remove from the orange. Use a spoon to scrape off any pith that remains on the rind .


Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a cocktail mixing glass (or 500 ml wide-mouth mason jar if you don’t have one) and douse in walnut bitters (4-5 dashes). Using the flat end of a cocktail stir spoon, crush the sugar cube. Add bourbon and regular sized ice, and give a good stir. Leave cocktail for about 4-7 minutes, stirring frequently.

As mentioned above, a great old fashioned takes time and is all about the proper dilution from the melting ice. Taste a little as you go, either by using a small spoon, or by placing a straw in the drink and drawing a small amount into it by placing one finger over the top end of the straw. When the flavours meet your preference, strain into a short cocktail glass over the one large ice cube.

Finally, wipe the glass edge using the orange rind and give it a quick twist over the top of the cocktail to release its essential oils before placing it into the drink. Enjoy!