Cocktail Hour: The Manhattan

I’m thrilled that Michael, our favorite mixologist, is back with a classic cocktail to warm us on these frigid winter days.  Read on to master the art of the Manhattan, then relax, grab a book, and light a fire.  Five o’clock is calling… As we all come off our holiday hiatus, it is traditional to use the New Year’s spirit to invigorate within ourselves a sense of renewal by enacting some manner of change intended to better ourselves as people.  For many this means more exercise, becoming more organized, or swearing off some pesky vice that has overstayed its welcome in our daily routine.  Simply put, this is NOT the time to stop drinking!  During my time matriculating at Annapolis, this time of year had a special name – “The Dark Ages”.  By definition, the “Dark Ages” began the day the Brigade of Midshipmen returned from Holiday leave and ended on the first day of Spring Break.  I vividly remember the lack of daylight, the frigid wind-whipped runs on the Chesapeake seawall, and the grinding academic work.  Even now living in Florida (as I write this it is 67 degrees and sunny), the “Dark Ages” still hold a special place in my heart.  I only regret not having ready access to a well stocked bar during my years as a Midshipmen – GPA be damned!

So I’m submitting to A&D few cocktail recipes to help us all make it through this lamented time of year.   I personally am a creature of the seasons and my cocktail consumption tends to mirror what is happening outside.  I dedicate this post to the readers in the frigid north and present another classic that is sure to stick to your ribs and make an evening sitting by the fire all the more perfect – the Manhattan.  I know its been awhile, so lets recap the First Commandment of mixing cocktails.  “Thou shalt use the finest ingredients in thy cocktails.”  I am not implying that one must use the exact bottles I present, only that your cocktail will only be as good as the cheapest ingredient used.The Manhattan, like the Martini, ranks among the most classic of cocktails.  Done correctly it is simple, tastes great, and provides the perfect dose of medicine to help shake off the Dark Ages grind.  With Manhattan recipes, the biggest points of contention are a.) the type of whiskey and b.) the proportions of base and modifier.  The great thing about the Manhattan Cocktail is type of whiskey and proportion are completely up to the person mixing provided the ingredients are of the finest quality.  The recipe I am presenting is my preferred (and the traditional) recipe, but one should feel free to experiment with slightly different proportions to satisfy their palate.  I will however talk about a few different types of whiskey that can change the character of your Manhattan to fit your mood – and the weather.

Basic Recipe:
2.0 Oz Whiskey
1.0 Oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Whiskey:

The base of any Manhattan is Whiskey…..and there are so many types.  A Rye Whiskey is the traditional type used in Manhattans because it typically is more balanced in terms of sweet, spice, and smoke (peat) than other whiskies.  Right now, my “go to” rye is Bulleit Rye because it is of good quality but not so good that it demands drinking it neat or on the rocks, and its not difficult to acquire (available in most liqueur stores).Two other variations I’d like to present are using a Bourbon or a Scotch as the base of this cocktail.  For the Bourbon option I’ve been using a High-Rye Bourbon by Redemption.  This is a great bottle because it brings out the sweetness inherent to Bourbon but still retains a bit of spice found in Rye.  For the Rob Roy option (this is the name of a Manhattan made with Scotch instead of American Whiskey), I currently use Monkey Shoulder.  This is a blended Scotch that has all the qualities of a Single Malt (made using 3 different single malts from The Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie) – a tip of the hat to the Master Distillers that put it together.  It is not overly peaty like some of the Islay regions and has the smooth malt and citrus notes that make it a great option for this recipe.Vermouth:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link – so do not skimp on the Sweet Vermouth.  This means that Martini and Rossi will not do.  I personally enjoy Dolin Sweet Vermouth but any high-end vermouth such as Carpano Antica or Cocchi Vermouth di Torino will do.

Bitters:

A few dashes of Angostura Bitters bring out all the subtleties in both ingredients and really round out the drink.  Do not use Peyschaud’s bitters unless you want to turn your expensive whiskey into something that tastes like Nyquil.  Peyschaud’s bitters has its place in other cocktails – the Manhattan is not one of them. The Process:

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker – or if you really want to class it up, get a beautiful mixing beaker as shown below.Add ice.STIR!  STIR! STIR! This Cocktail! Shaking Manhattans or other whiskey cocktails is one of my drinking pet peeves.  Please, for the love of all things right and just in this world, DO NOT SHAKE these drinks.  Shaking these cocktails adds too much water to the mix and greatly diminishes the flavor.  Also, help me on my crusade to make sure these drinks are made properly by demanding bartenders stir these cocktails when you order them out.  Strain into a Coupe or Cocktail Glass.  Garnish with a Cherry.A quick note about the cherry garnish.  Luxardo makes great cherries for cocktails.  I HIGHLY recommend, if you intend on making this cocktail regularly, to buy a jar.  They are readily available on Amazon and they last forever.  Don’t settle for the cheap Maraschino Cherries found in most grocery stores.  I’d skip those and garnish with a citrus peel before I allowed one to see the inside of my Manhattan glass.  Keep it classy folks.The Manhattan is alcoholic comfort food for me – I hope this helps everyone make it through the Dark Ages!

Cheers, MC.

all photos in this post by Michael

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