October 16, 2021

The Improved Whiskey Cocktail, Is It Really Improved?

Imagine an Old Fashioned with a soft herbal background the crisp zip of absinthe. Sounds pretty good right?

straining the improved whiskey cocktail

What makes the Improved Whiskey Cocktail different from any other whiskey drink?

Like many recipes it is a variation on the classic Old Fashioned meaning it is made of mostly spirit with a little splash of sweetness and some bitters.

To get its pleasant herbal flavor the Improved Whiskey Cocktail is sweetened with Maraschino liqueur and brightened by a few drops of potent absinthe and lemon zest.

Simply delicious.

a bottle of marachino liqueur

What is Maraschino liqueur?

Maraschino liqueur is made from Marasca cherries and unlike the bright sweet flavored marachino cherries in supermarkets this traditional liqueur has a rich green herbal note.

The sweetness in the liqueur replaces some of the sugar in a traditional Old Fashioned while its herbal character adds some delightful complexity.

holding a bottle of absinthe

Find your perfect Improved Whiskey Cocktail

The base of the drink starts with 2 oz of either bourbon or rye whiskey. Then, in addition to the maraschino mentioned above, we need some absinthe, bitters, and lemon zest.

Complex anise notes from absinthe are a welcome addition to many bold flavored drinks and it plays especially well with Maraschino. It can be overpowering if not used sparingly, but just a few drops provide a lively zip.

The absinthe is commonly added right into the mixing glass before stirring with ice, but if you'd like less anise flavor in the finished drink try this instead...

Pour a little bit into your cocktail glass, swirl it around, and then dump it out. This technique (called rinsing) leaves just a trace of the flavor compared to the full teaspoon that the recipe calls for.

a garnished improved whiskey cocktail

how much simple syrup?

The maximum amount of Maraschino liqueur you want to add is 1/4 oz. Any more than that and it starts to really take over the drink.

For some peoples taste 1/4 oz of Maraschino doesn't add quite enough sweetness so simple syrup is used to reach that perfect level.

It's totally a matter of preference. I enjoy it with just a splash of simple syrup but you can skip the simple syrup all together, or add up to 1/4 oz.

dash of peychauds bitters

Bitters and lemon

The remaining flavor comes from a few dashes of both Angostura and Peychauds bitters and a squeeze of lemon peel over the finished drink.

Oils in the lemon peel burst out when it's squeezed and they are full of fresh fruity flavor that help cut through the sweetness and booze.

squeezing lemon peel garnish

vs. Old Fashioned

The Improved whiskey cocktail is different from the Old Fashioned because of the herbal notes from Maraschino liqueur and absinthe. An Old Fashioned is more whiskey forward with its sweetness coming only from simple syrup, and additional flavor from just a few dashes of bitters.

vs. Sazerac

The Sazerac uses whiskey, absinthe, and lemon zest just like the Improved Whiskey Cocktail making them taste fairly similar. The difference is the Maraschino liqueur in the Improved Whiskey Cocktail that adds another layer of rich herbal flavor.

So is it improved? Well, if you enjoy a little extra something in your Old Fashioned it sure is.

Improved Whiskey Cocktail

Like a cross between an Old Fashioned and a Sazerac the Improved Whiskey Cocktail has rich layers of herbal flavor on a sturdy backbone of whiskey


  • 2 oz Whiskey - Bourbon or Rye
  • 1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 barspoon Simple Syrup
  • 1 half barspoon Absinthe
  • 2 dashes Angosuta Bitters
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
  • Piece of Lemon Peel


  • Add all of the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass.
  • Add ice and stir for 20-30 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Express the oils from the orange peel over the finished drink and drop in for garnish.


If you'd like less absinthe flavor "rinse" the glass by pouring in a little absinthe, swirl it around to coat the glass and then dump it out and do not add the absinthe that the recipe calls for when mixing the drink.
Feel free to adjust the sweetness by leaving out the simple syrup or adding as much as 1/4 oz.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 drink
Tag me at @mydrinkinghobby when you make this!

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