Ever since we launched “It’s just the booze dancing…” last April, I’ve spent a good bit of my spare time reading about the stuff we write about, i.e. craft beer, whisk(e)y, and cocktails. If you’re going to put yourself out there as some some sort of booze expert, then you better know what you’re talking about!
While I’ve spent a good bit of time reading about cocktails, I have spent very little time actually making them. The April 2011 issue of Esquire includes a David Wondrich article titled “The Imposters“, which focuses on three classic cocktails that have been bastardized over the past 100+ years: The Gin Cocktail, The Original Singapore Sling, and The Manhattan Club’s Manhattan.
Much like the Martini, the Manhattan has deviated greatly from it’s original recipe. What everyone thinks is a Martini has gone from a drink that contains equal parts Old Tom Gin and White Vermouth, to something that is mostly London Dry Gin and just a whisper of White Vermouth (the garnish varies from pickled onions to a twist of lemon zest and everything in between). The Martini trend has been to go stronger and drier over the years.
The same has happened to the Manhattan. Per the Wondrich article, the original recipe consisted of equal parts Straight Rye Whiskey, Sweet Vermouth, and a dash or two of bitters, while the Manhattan that I’m used to consists of about three parts Bourbon, one part Red Vermouth, a dash or two of Angostura bitters, and a maraschino cherry. I have never been a fan of the Martini (or at least what I’ve always thought of as a Martini), but I am a huge fan of the Manhattan. It’s a big, powerful drink that can do quite a bit of damage if you’re not careful! Since I happen to have a bottle of Sazerac Rye, I thought I would try to recreate what Mr. Wondrich claims to be the original Manhattan recipe…
While equal parts Straight Rye Whiskey and Red Vermouth results in a much tamer drink (30% ABV for the original Manhattan vs. 37.5% ABV for the version that I’m used to), I would never call the original Manhattan recipe weak or watered down. Mr. Wondrich is right on the money when he says that this recipe results in a “smooth, rich, and elegant” cocktail. Equalizing the Whiskey/Vermouth proportions helps to tame the spicy edge that usually characterizes Straight Rye Whiskey, but doesn’t make it disappear completely. The end result is a well balanced and flavorful cocktail that I look forward to enjoying again and again.
If you too are a fan of the Manhattan cocktail, give this fine adult beverage a try, and please report back to tell us what you think.
Here’s the recipe…
The Manhattan Club’s Manhattan
Stir well with cracked ice:
- 1.5 ounces Straight Rye Whiskey
- 1.5 ounces Martini & Rossi Red Vermouth
- 2 dashes of orange bitters
Strain into chilled cocktail coupe and twist a swatch of thin-cut lemon peel over the top.