I’m not much for the idea that the certain spirits should only be drunk during certain times of the year. If I waited for cold weather in Alabama to drink red wine or whiskey, I would still have a long time to wait. Luckily, even a spirituous* cocktail can revive a thirsty soul and cool him or her down.
One such beverage is the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. With recipes dating back to the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion or The Bartender’s Guide, this cocktail sprang from a source similar to the Old Fashioned. In the days of yore, few drinks had defined names. Simply enough, patrons wanting any sort of mixture of whiskey, water and sugar would order a Whiskey Cocktail.
As maraschino liqueur, absinthe and other spirits came on the scene, their introduction into this family of beverage spawned a new creation — the Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. About fourteen years later, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail joined its fancy counterpart in Thomas’s book. Since that time, both of the cocktails have been reformulated to fit more modern standards of measurement by David Wondrich in Imbibe! which was later picked up by The PDT Cocktail Book. This recipe is the one below.
Currently, the PDT recipe is my favorite riff on this particular cocktail. It’s a simple drink with sweet and bitter notes that balance and soften the edges of the rye whiskey. As they say, rye whiskey makes the band sound better, makes your baby cuter, makes itself taste sweeter, oh boy!
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash absinthe (or rinse the glass with absinthe)
.25 oz simple syrup
.25 oz maraschino liqueur
2 oz overproof rye whiskey
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and drop in a handful of crushed ice. Put a few whole cubes on top and stir til the drink is diluted to your taste or about 13-17 seconds. Garnish with a lemon peel.
*spirituous: A drink that contains (almost) all liquor and no citrus.