Improved Whiskey Cocktail

An Old-Fashioned, improved upon.

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.