Improved Whiskey Cocktail

An Old-Fashioned, improved upon.

improved whiskey cocktail recipe

Before the introduction of such baroque ingredients as maraschino liqueur and absinthe, every cocktail was built like an Old-Fashioned—a simple mix of spirits, sugar, bitters and water. The Old-Fashioned was only christened when fanciful ingredients started popping up and devotees of the old school were forced to specify their preference for a whiskey cocktail “the old fashioned way,” sans fruit garnish or new-fangled European spirits. “Improved” cocktails subsequently featured a sweet liqueur and lemon swathed around the rim of a glass, and the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, the most enduring of them all, remains a window into a moment in cocktail history when drinks were progressing to a more complex level.


Serving: 1

  • 2 ounces bourbon or rye
  • 1 sugar cube (see Editor's Note below)
  • 1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
  • 1 dash absinthe

Garnish: lemon or orange peel

  1. In a rocks glass, muddle sugar cube (or sugar or simple syrup) with maraschino, bitters and absinthe.
  2. Add whiskey and stir.
  3. Add ice (preferably a large cube) and stir until well chilled.
  4. Garnish with a lemon or orange peel.
Editor's Note

If you don't have sugar cubes on hand, a teaspoon of sugar or a heaping 1/4 ounce of simple syrup will do the trick.

Related Punch A-Z


(n.) A large umbrella of a category covering spirits distilled from a fermented mash of grains. In the United States, all whiskeys must be distilled under 190 proof, and bottled at more than 80 proof. The slate of acceptable grains includes corn, rye, wheat, sorghum, malted barley and any combination thereof. The precise mix of [...] More A-Z →