In the mid-19th century, there were three standard cocktails for brandy, whiskey or gin: Plain. Fancy. Improved. Fancy meant you got a dash of curacao. Improved meant you got a dash of maraschino liqueur or absinthe, or both.
This is a variation of Improved, for a contemporary spirit, tequila. It comes from Bobby Heugel, who created the List of 100 Must-Drink Cocktails. Heugel calls for Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters, which are wonderful, and can be ordered from several online sources. In a pinch, however you could try orange bitters, Peychaud's bitters or even celery bitters to good effect.
For tequila, Heugel recommends Siete Leguas or Siembra Azul. Spirits columnist Jason Wilson also recommends El Tesoro or Excellia.
- 2 ounces reposado tequila (see headnote)
- 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur (not the juice from maraschino cherries)
- 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters (see headnote)
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 teaspoon agave nectar
- Twist of lemon peel, for garnish
Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Add the tequila, maraschino liqueur, both bitters and the agave nectar. Stir vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass.
Twist the lemon peel over the drink, rub the rim of the glass, then drop it in as a garnish.
Adapted from Heugel, of the Anvil Bar and Refuge in Houston.
Tested by Jason Wilson and Michael Taylor.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.