How many calories and sugar are in an Old Fashioned?

The Old Fashioned is a classic whiskey cocktail that has been enjoyed for over 100 years. It’s made with bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar, bitters and garnished with an orange peel. But like most cocktails, it does contain a significant amount of calories and sugar. In this article, we’ll break down the nutritional information and ingredients in an Old Fashioned to see just how many calories and grams of sugar are in one drink.

Calories in an Old Fashioned

An Old Fashioned contains around 150 calories per serving. This is based on a typical recipe made with:

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey (105 calories)
  • 1 sugar cube or 1 tsp white sugar (16 calories)
  • 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters (negligible calories)
  • 1 twist of orange peel for garnish

The bulk of calories in an Old Fashioned come from the 2 oz of whiskey, which is pure alcohol. Alcohol contains about 105 calories per 1.5 oz serving, so 2 oz equates to roughly 140 calories.

The sugar cube or teaspoon of plain white sugar adds around 16 calories. Bitters and orange peel contain minimal calories that can be rounded down to zero. Therefore, the total calorie count lands at about 150 calories per cocktail.

Calories from different whiskey styles

Bourbon and rye whiskey have very similar calorie contents. However, using other styles of whiskey can slightly alter the calorie count of an Old Fashioned.

Whiskey Type Calories (2 oz)
Bourbon 105
Rye 105
Scotch 105
Irish 105
Tennessee 115

As you can see, most straight whiskeys like bourbon, rye, Scotch and Irish contain right around 105 calories per 2 oz pour. However, Tennessee whiskey such as Jack Daniel’s gets up to 115 calories for 2 oz.

The minor differences come from the alcohol content, or proof, of the different whiskeys. Higher proof spirits have more calories from alcohol. But no matter what, you’re looking at about 105-115 whiskey calories in a standard Old Fashioned.

Using simple syrup instead of sugar

Some recipes for Old Fashioned call for simple syrup instead of plain granulated sugar. Simple syrup is a liquid sweetener made from equal parts sugar and water dissolved together.

1 teaspoon of simple syrup also contains around 16 calories, the same as 1 teaspoon of regular sugar. So using simple syrup has no effect on the calorie count of an Old Fashioned.

Calories with different amounts of ingredients

The calorie totals can change based on how much whiskey and sugar goes into your Old Fashioned. Here are some calorie counts based on different sized cocktails:

Whiskey Amount Sugar Amount Total Calories
1 oz 1 tsp 90
1.5 oz 1 tsp 120
2 oz 1 tsp 150
2.5 oz 1 tsp 180
2 oz 2 tsp 165

As you can see, cutting the whiskey back to 1 oz or 1.5 oz reduces the calories by a proportional amount. Doubling the sugar to 2 teaspoons increases calories slightly to 165 for a standard 2 oz pour.

Sugar in an Old Fashioned

Now let’s take a look at the sugar content of an Old Fashioned. Granulated white sugar contains 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon. Since a basic Old Fashioned calls for just 1 sugar cube or 1 tsp of sugar, this equates to:

  • 4 grams of sugar per serving

Again, the sugar content can change based on your recipe. Using 2 tsp of sugar would double the amount to 8 grams. Simple syrup contains about the same sugar content as granulated sugar.

Compared to other cocktails and mixed drinks, the Old Fashioned is relatively low in sugar. For example, a margarita can have over 20 grams of sugar using common recipes.

Sugar content in different types of whiskey

Straight whiskeys like bourbon, rye, Scotch and Irish whiskey contain zero sugar. However, some other whiskies do contain small amounts of sugar:

Whiskey Type Sugar per 1.5 oz
Bourbon 0g
Rye 0g
Scotch 0g
Irish 0g
Tennessee 0g
Canadian 0.1g
Flavored whiskey 2-7g

Flavored whiskies like Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey contain up to 7 grams of sugar per serving, but this doesn’t apply to an Old Fashioned made with traditional bourbon, rye or Scotch.

Comparing Old Fashioned calories to beer, wine and other drinks

At around 150 calories per serving, the Old Fashioned has a similar calorie count to many other popular alcohol choices. Here’s how it compares:

Drink Serving Size Calories
Old Fashioned 1 cocktail 150
Regular beer 12 oz 153
Red wine 5 oz 125
Martini 1 cocktail 140
Margarita 1 cocktail 168
Piña colada 1 cocktail 490

Beer, wine, martinis and Old Fashioneds all fall within a similar calorie range per serving. Frozen cocktails like piña coladas tend to be much higher in calories due to added fruit juices and cream.

The Old Fashioned has a leg up on most cocktails when it comes to sugar content. It only contains about 4 grams of sugar, whereas margaritas, piña coladas, daiquiris and other mixed drinks can have over 10x as much sugar per cocktail.

Techniques to reduce calories

There are some easy ways you can reduce the calories and sugar in an Old Fashioned, if you want a lower calorie option:

  • Use less whiskey – Cut the pour to 1.5 oz or 1 oz to cut back on calories
  • Skip the sugar – Leave out the sugar cube/syrup to eliminate empty calories and sugar
  • Use diet mixers – If you want a sweeter drink, use a splash of zero calorie cola or diet ginger ale
  • Muddle fruit – Muddling orange slices or cherries adds flavor without extra sugar
  • Use bitters – Extra dashes of bitters add flavor for virtually zero calories

With some simple tweaks, you can easily shave off calories and sugar from an Old Fashioned while still enjoying its classic flavor.

Nutrition facts label for an Old Fashioned

Here is an overview nutrition facts label for a standard Old Fashioned containing 2 oz whiskey and 1 teaspoon sugar:

Old Fashioned (1 cocktail)
Calories 150
Fat 0 g
Carbs 4 g
Sugar 4 g
Sodium 2 mg
Protein 0 g

As you can see, the Old Fashioned is low in carbs, sodium and is completely devoid of fat and protein. All the calories come from the alcohol and sugar used to make the drink.

Daily calorie recommendations

Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, the 150 calories in an Old Fashioned represent about 8% of your daily intake. Of course alcohol calories are considered “empty calories” without nutritional value.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. The Old Fashioned fits within these moderate drinking limits.

Should you worry about the sugar?

With only 4 grams of sugar per serving, the Old Fashioned is actually quite low in sugar compared to other cocktails. It’s unlikely that the sugar content should be of concern, unless you have specific medical reasons for limiting sugar intake.

However, from a calorie-counting perspective, the best option is to skip the sugar cube or simple syrup. Using bitters or muddling fruit can add flavor without extra calories or sugar.

Low sugar whiskey options

Some people may want to further reduce their sugar intake from mixers. In that case, your best bet is sticking with straight whiskey styles like:

  • Bourbon
  • Rye
  • Scotch
  • Irish whiskey

These types of whiskey have zero sugar and you can skip the sugar cube or syrup altogether when making an Old Fashioned.

Making the healthiest Old Fashioned

If you’re really trying to watch calories and sugar, there are some ways to lighten up an Old Fashioned while keeping its delicious flavor:

  • Use 1.5 oz whiskey instead of 2 oz
  • Skip the sugar cube or simple syrup
  • Add a splash of soda water or seltzer
  • Muddle fresh fruit like orange slices or cherries
  • Use plenty of bitters to add flavor
  • Garnish with citrus like lemon or lime

With these tweaks, you can easily make a lower calorie Old Fashioned under 100 calories. The bitters, fruit and soda water enhance the whiskey flavor, while cutting back on empty calories from sugar.

Here’s a recap of a 90 calorie “skinny” Old Fashioned recipe:

  • 1.5 oz rye or bourbon (105 calories)
  • 5-6 dashes Angostura bitters (0 calories)
  • 1 oz soda water (0 calories)
  • Garnish: orange slice and cherry

The bottom line

A standard Old Fashioned contains around 150 calories and 4 grams of sugar per serving. This is comparable to a 12 oz beer or 5 oz glass of wine.

While whiskey itself has 105-140 calories per shot, it’s the added simple syrup or sugar cube that gives cocktails like the Old Fashioned extra calories. Skipping the sugar is the easiest way drop calories for a low carb, low sugar Old Fashioned.

Overall, the Old Fashioned is a fairly balanced cocktail option. Enjoy it in moderation as part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

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