Improved Whiskey Cocktail Recipe
Jan 06, 2019, Updated Jul 13, 2023
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If you’re a fan of the Sazerac or the Old Fashioned cocktail, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail just may be your new favorite drink. The improved whiskey cocktail is one of my favorite classic cocktails. It combines a lot of my favorite elements from two very important classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac.
The Improved Whiskey Cocktail can be made with either bourbon or rye as the base spirit, depending on your personal preference. Combined with maraschino liqueur, absinthe, simple sugar, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and a lemon peel, it’s like an Old Fashioned on steroids.
The Improved Whiskey Cocktail is a more dynamic Old Fashioned with notes of anise, lemon citrus, and maraschino. If you’re looking to explore some of my other favorite classic whiskey cocktails, try my Whiskey Sour, Brooklyn cocktail, Sidecar cocktail, and my best Manhattan recipe.
Table of Contents
- Rye or bourbon: this is a matter of personal preference. I prefer bourbon but sometimes I enjoy American rye.
- Maraschino liqueur: I prefer Luxardo brand. It’s very easy to find in most liquor stores.
- Simple syrup: use a 50-50 mix of sugar and water. You can purchase or make your own by melting sugar in hot water (1 cup sugar and 1 cup water).
- Absinthe: this is an optional ingredient as it adds very subtle anise aromatics. It’s also used in the Corpse Reviver 2 in a very similar fashion.
- Peychaud’s bitters: Peychaud’s bitters have a unique flavor profile that includes a combination of anise, cherry, and floral notes, with a slightly sweet and herbal character. Its most iconic usage is in the Sazerac cocktail.
- Angostura bitters: Angostura bitters are readily available and a classic option for almost any whiskey cocktail.
- Lemon peel for garnish: adds aromatic lemon notes and subtle flavor. It’s simply not the same drink without it!
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities below.
Maraschino liqueur is a unique cherry-flavored spirit made from sour Marasca cherries. It’s clear, slightly sweet, and found in many classic and Prohibition-Era cocktails. Luxardo is the most well-known cherry liqueur brand and my recommendation should you decide to embark on this maraschino cocktail journey.
I think most people have heard of the classic Aviation cocktail or Last Word, but here are some other maraschino liqueur cocktails that may pique your interest as well. I highly recommend you grab a bottle and put it to good use. While it’s often used sparingly in drinks, I wouldn’t stock a home bar without it.
How to Make an Improved Whiskey Cocktail
Add the absinthe to a chilled double old-fashioned glass and twirl to coat the inside of the glass. Discard the excess.
Store some absinthe in a small 1-2 ounce cocktail spray bottle for quick and easy absinthe coating. This is my favorite hack and reduces waste.
In a Boston shaker or mixing glass, combine whiskey, maraschino, both bitters, and sugar. Fill the mixing glass halfway with ice, then stir vigorously for 15 seconds.
Strain into a chilled old-fashioned glass over a giant ice cube or fresh ice.
Squeeze lemon peel over the glass to extract oils, wipe the rim of the glass with the peel, and add to the glass or discard.
Point the outer peel (non-pith side) outward facing the drink and gently squeeze the edges so the oils spray out over the top of the drink. If done properly, you can see the oils floating on the surface of your drink. This works best with two hands.
- Chill your glasses in the freezer. A cold glass prevents warming and keeps your drink colder for longer.
- Most whiskey cocktails are stirred rather than shaken to limit the amount of dilution and oxygen infused into the drink.
- A giant ice cube is designed to melt slower due to its size, causing less dilution. If you’re serious about making cocktails, invest in a clear ice maker or make your own clear ice. Clear ice cubes taste better and melt even slower.
Best Bourbon for Whiskey Cocktails
I love bourbon because there are so many great options out there at the $25-$35 price point. My evergrowing list of favorite budget-friendly bourbons are:
- Buffalo Trace
- Elijah Craig
- Henry McKenna Single Barrel
- Four Roses Single Barrel
- Woodford Reserve
- Eagle Rare
- Knob Creek
- Maker’s Mark
Frequently Asked Questions
Simple syrup, also called simple sugar, is a liquid sweetener made with equal parts sugar and water.
Look for Angostura aromatic bitters or Scrappy’s aromatic bitters. This recipe also calls for Peychaud bitters, which have very distinct floral and anise flavors.
A dash of bitters is a firm downward shake of the bottle so a small amount squirts out. You can alternatively tap the bottom of the bottle with the palm of your hand while holding it upside down, similar to hitting a glass ketchup bottle.
Enjoy this recipe? If you made this cocktail, please leave a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ star rating in the recipe card below & a review in the comments!
Improved Whiskey Cocktail Recipe
- 2 ounces rye or bourbon
- 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1 teaspoon absinthe
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- lemon peel for garnish
- Add the absinthe to a chilled double old-fashioned glass and twirl to coat the inside of the glass. Discard the excess.
- In a Boston shaker or mixing glass, combine whiskey, maraschino, bitters, and sugar. Fill the mixing glass halfway with ice, then stir vigorously for 15 seconds.
- Strain into the old-fashioned glass over a giant ice cube.
- Squeeze lemon peel over the glass to extract oils, wipe the rim of the glass with the peel, and add to the glass or discard.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.