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  • The Rusty Bartender

The history and recipe of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail

Cocktails have a fascinating history, each one telling a unique story through its combination of ingredients and flavors. One such classic concoction that has withstood the test of time is the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. Born out of the mid-19th century's golden era of mixology, this cocktail has evolved to become a timeless favorite among whiskey enthusiasts. In this blog post, we'll delve into the rich history of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail and provide you with a simple yet refined recipe to enjoy this iconic drink.

The Improved Whiskey Cocktail made its debut during a period when the art of cocktail-making was truly blossoming. The term "improved" in its name suggests a refinement or enhancement of an existing recipe. As with many classic cocktails, the precise origins of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail are somewhat shrouded in mystery, but its earliest appearances can be traced back to the 19th century.

This cocktail gained popularity during a time when bartenders and mixologists were experimenting with various ingredients to elevate the drinking experience. The first written record of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail can be found in Jerry Thomas's 1876 bartending guide, "How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion." However, the recipe has likely evolved and been refined by countless bartenders over the years.

The Recipe:

The beauty of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail lies in its simplicity and balance of flavors. Here's a classic recipe that pays homage to its historical roots:


  • 2 oz Rye whiskey

  • 1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur

  • 1/4 oz Simple syrup

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 1 dash Absinthe

  • Orange peel (for garnish)


  1. Start by chilling your glassware. Place it in the freezer or fill it with ice water while you prepare the cocktail.

  2. In a mixing glass, add the rye whiskey, Maraschino liqueur, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and a dash of absinthe.

  3. Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir the ingredients well. This not only chills the drink but also ensures proper dilution for a balanced flavor.

  4. Discard the ice from the chilled glass and strain the mixture into it.

  5. Express the oils from an orange peel over the drink by giving it a twist, then drop the peel into the glass as a garnish.

  6. Optionally, you can add a single large ice cube to the glass for further dilution and temperature control.

Enjoying the Improved Whiskey Cocktail:

Sip on this timeless concoction, and you'll experience a harmonious blend of the robust character of rye whiskey, the subtle sweetness of Maraschino liqueur, and the aromatic complexities of absinthe and bitters. The Improved Whiskey Cocktail is not just a drink; it's a journey through history encapsulated in a glass.


As we raise a toast to the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, we celebrate the craftsmanship and creativity of the bartenders who paved the way for this classic libation. Whether you're a seasoned cocktail enthusiast or a curious newcomer, this drink invites you to experience the elegance and timeless appeal of a well-crafted beverage. So, gather your ingredients, embrace the history, and savor the refined pleasure of an Improved Whiskey Cocktail.

Cheers Rusty

Watch me make it here.

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