DOTW: The Manhattan

Posted by Cameron on 11.10.06 6:48 AM

manhattan (c)2006 CTCYou can pick your friends—the saying goes—and you can pick your…um… poison, but you can’t pick your family. Happily, I have been blessed many times over through both blood and marriage. And so, while this Drink of the Week post is inspired by Mixology Monday #9 (bitters), it is dedicated to my brother-in-law Matt, who introduced me to a delightfully civilized drink: The Manhattan.

I had always been suspicious of The Manhattan, put off by crappy bourbon, unpredictable proportions, and those nasty, nuclear pink, jarred maraschino cherries that people actually eat instead of sticking on top of car antennas, where they belong.

But one night during a holiday visit many years ago, Matt commandeered the cocktail shaker and went to work with sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Wild Turkey. I think. I’m a little blurry on the precise brand of bourbon, probably because we knocked off most of a bottle of whatever it was over the course of a gregarious evening.

In any case, my prejudice melted, and if I never sought The Manhattan out, neither did I avoid its presence. Those awful cherries, though. Ugh. Not a chance.

The next stage in my journey came this fall, when Murray of the Zig Zag Cafe promised us that if we brought a bottle of Carpano Antica vermouth on our next trip to Seattle, we’d be rewarded. When Murray speaks on things of a spiritous nature, my friends, I listen. Bottle in hand, we wafted in out of the northern night to be greeted by a Manhattan made with Carpano Antica, Rittenhouse bonded rye, and Bitter Truth bitters. Magic.

Since then, I (heart) Manhattan. It’s a drink that rewards customization with different ingredient styles and (carefully!) proportions. You’ll find recipes that recommend anywhere from one-half to two ounces of vermouth for two ounces of bourbon or rye. These days, I feel like anything less than a 2:1 ratio tastes like a shot, not a cocktail, but as I have written before, I am pigheaded, uncultured, and have displayed questionable drink-ordering skills.

The recipe below produces a very smooth drink, and is doubly appropriate for this particular MxMo, as it contains two bitter ingredients: orange bitters and Carpano Antica. The Bulleit bourbon lends body without calling attention to itself, and the fruitiness of the orange bitters (of which the Hermes is a difficult-to-find but excellent example) balances the extra bite of the Carpano Antica, which you could replace with regular sweet vermouth for increased mellitude. If you need fruit, soak dried Bing cherries overnight in whatever suits your fancy. I used brandy and…POW! Drunken Cherries.

Cheers, Matt! (And happy 5th Anniversary to you and P…)
MxMo 9

Old Manhattan
2 oz. Bulleit bourbon
1-1/4 oz. Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Hermes orange bitters

Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a Drunken Cherry.

Drink of the Week, drinks, family, Mixology Monday, other blogs, recipes



Comment by Matt

Humbled. Glad our first real bonding experience is remembered so fondly. I will, however, have to set you straight on the active ingredient in that particular outing–it was not bourbon, and in fact was not anything from this side of the pond. It was Bushmill’s. Although that probably means that we were drinking something other than a Manhattan that particular night.

That said, I prefer the bourbon version, and the spirit (no pun intended) of the proceedings was more focused on Manhattans. So as far as I’m concerned, it stands (much better than we did by the end of the night).

Posted on 11.10.06 at 4:43PM

Comment by erik_flannestad

Alternatively, let me suggest the Amarena Cherries in syrup you can get at Lucca Ravioli for your Manhattans. Resist the urge to purchase their pasta or sandwiches, as they are pretty crappy.

And, uh, yeah, if you can find the 6 year old Sazerac Rye in the delightfully old-fashioned bottles, it is totally where it is at, for my personal favorite Manhattans.

Posted on 11.11.06 at 10:42PM

Comment by Cameron

Bushmills. Figures. Did I mention that I was lit up like a freight train?

Nevertheless, I take heart in the fact that the Manhattan recipe from the venerable “Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes” (1936), as quoted on and elsewhere, calls for “rye or Irish whiskey”. I’ll be making my next Manhattan with Jameson’s and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Posted on 11.12.06 at 7:42PM

Comment by Sean

You calling that Plumpjack bourbon crappy? ;-)

Posted on 11.13.06 at 10:42AM

Comment by Cameron

Plumpjack crappy? Eek, no. Lovely stuff. I was referring to your airborne Jack experience.

Posted on 11.13.06 at 11:37AM

Comment by Lauren

As you know, Paul’s drink is a Manhattan (which he prefers made with rye, perfect, with orange bitters). Remind me next time I see you to give you a bottle of the cherries we use. They’re maraska cherries that we get at PFI. Yum.

Posted on 11.13.06 at 11:39AM

Pingback by A Dash of Bitters » MxMo 9 Roundup

Although I’ve have many good Manhattans, I’ve never tried either the Carpano Antica nor the Hermes orange bitters. My Manhattan experiences are incomplete!

Posted on 11.14.06 at 3:49AM

Comment by Paul

A Manhattan made with Irish whiskey and orange bitters is technically an Emerald; untechnically, it’s damn tasty.

Posted on 11.15.06 at 9:27AM

Comment by Nelson

OK, any more discussion of this wonderful concoction should be done over one. I’m drooling.


Posted on 11.21.06 at 8:20AM

Comment by erik_flannestad

BTW, it seems the Sazerac folks have stepped up production enough to bring their 6 year old Sazerac into California, as I’ve now seen it lurking in bars and liquor stores in the Bay Area.

If you’re looking to spend some money, the rest of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is also out and about, including a new unfiltered, cask strength rye.

Posted on 11.22.06 at 6:52AM

Comment by Anita

Tempt me not!! Our liquor cabinet is bursting -and- we’re about to pack up 90% of our kitchen/dining stuff for the remodel. No more new liquor (beyond replacement bottles of the basics) until Spring ’07. Ha! Let’s see how long that lasts.

Posted on 11.22.06 at 7:13AM

Comment by erik_flannestad

I guess you’ll have to come over for Sazerac Manhattans, then!


Posted on 11.22.06 at 10:24AM

Comment by A1D

Try the Antica with Canadian Club Sherry Casked Rye (2:1 rye:vermouth) plus dash of orange bitters and dash of angostura. Best (and probably most expensive) Manahttan ever – I promise

Posted on 10.09.09 at 7:54AM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.