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Virgin Old Fashioned

One might think that an old fashioned without the whiskey would be underwhelming at best, but it doesn't have to be with barley tea. Much like the spirit, barley tea is astringent with subtle smoky notes accompanied by a complex bitter taste that closely mimics that of whiskey. Combine that with sugar and bitters and you have a virgin version that is spot on. The purpose of the sugar and bitters in a classic old fashioned recipe is to tame the spirit so if there is nothing to tame, the whole concept is thrown off, but the tea delivers an equally robust flavor. Barley tea, which is actually a tisane, is very easy to make but does need two hours to steep so you definitely want to make the tea in advance. Fortunately, preparation involves placing a tea bag into a pitcher of water and popping it in the fridge. 

Looking for an easier way or don't have time to brew tea? We hear you. Here's another recipe we've whipped up using a non-alcoholic spirit instead, or read a full review of non-alcoholic whiskeys (here).

Total Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Active Time: 10 minutes


Serves 1

Barley tea

  • 4 cups water, cold or room-temperature is fine

  • 1 barley tea bag


Old fashioned

  • 1 sugar cube

  • 1 orange slice

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • Ice

  • 2 ounces barley tea

  • 1 maraschino cherry, for garnish


For the tea:

  1. Pour the water into a pitcher.

  2. Add the tea bag.

  3. Refrigerate for 2 hours then discard the tea bag.

For the mocktail:

  1. Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a glass.

  2. Add the orange slice and bitters.

  3. Muddle then fill the glass with ice.

  4. Add the tea. Stir to help the sugar dissolve.

  5. Garnish with the cherry then enjoy.

Note: Although alcohol-based, two dashes of bitters contain trace amounts of alcohol meaning this mocktail is still considered non-alcoholic.

History of the Old Fashioned (Before the Virgin)

The 'Old Fashioned' is often called the all-time classic cocktail - and for a reason. Its origin can be traced back to 1862 when it was called 'Whisky Cocktail' in Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks, which is the world's first cocktail book. 

Legend has it that the name comes from people ordering a cocktail the "old-fashioned" way.

The Pendennis Club is credited with crafting the first 'Old Fashioned' in 1880 by James E. Pepper, the bartender who was also a well-respected aristocrat who later went on to bring the drink to the renowned Waldorf Astoria in New York. 

The cocktail finds its published recipe being mentioned in Modern American Drinks, written by George Kappeler which describes it as, "Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass." 

What followed after the prohibition era was a detailed DIY recipe for Old Fashioned by someone known as "Old Timer" in a New York Times article published in 1936. The article read "Consider, for instance, the Old-Fashioned cocktail. Time was when the affable and sympathetic bartender moisted a lump of sugar with Angostura bitter, dropped in a lump of ice, neither too large or too small, stuck in a miniature bar spoon and passed the glass to the client with a bottle of good bourbon from which said client was privileged to pour his own drink."

Throughout the years since its inception, there have been many variations of this classic cocktail - around six well recognized versions of them. From 1800s up until today, the Old Fashion is an age old classic and one of the most popular cocktails around the world.

Meet the Other Classic Mocktail Recipes
Zero-Proof Pimm's Cup Mocktail  
Virgin Manhattan  
Non-Alcoholic Mojito Mocktail