Manhattans are an extremely easy and delicious drink, and happen to be my favorite class of cocktail. The typical Manhattan is some ratio of whiskey – bourbon or rye – with a similar measure of vermouth. I say similar because, while I prefer a 1:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth, if you like a sweeter drink feel free to favor the vermouth. Or, as many do, if you want a stronger kick go for a stronger pour of spirits or a higher proofed whiskey. As a spiritus drink, meaning one that is not adulterated with additional juices or waters, any adjustments in the ingredients quality or proportion will produce discernible results. The best Manhattan is the one you like, so start with a basic recipe, make the tweaks you need, and find your Manhattan. The “Old Standard” Manhattan, as reported by David Wondrich in Imbibe!, is one part whiskey, one part vermouth, two dashes of gum syrup, and a couple dashes of Peruvian Bitters. Thanks David, you had me up until the gum syrup. We hope to write more later on the somewhat obscure ingredients, but I am here to tell you that you can make a fantastic classic Manhattan without them.
- 1 1/2 ounces good whiskey – bourbon or rye
- 1 1/2 ounces sweet (rouge) vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 Maraschino cherry (a real one – not those hot pink blobs) or a twist of orange
- Fill a shaker with ice and stir ingredients until the cocktail is well-chilled, about 40 seconds.
- Strain in to a pretty glass, garnish as you like, and serve.
So, once you get the Classic Manhattan the way you like it is fun to play with the vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine, most commonly Italian (Martini & Rossi) or French (Noilly Prat), red or dry. The base wine may be made from a variety of wines or blends that are then sweetened and flavored with botanicals and spices. Vermouths typically come in under 20% alcohol by volume and they are all different. Playing around with a variety of vermouths is a fun way tinker with the Manhattan, but it can also be fun to try other fortified wines. There are a lot of new and exciting fortified wines coming on the market now and many are very affordable. It is my recommendation to go to your favorite local liquor store, check out their liquor selection, see if there is any new under 20% ABV fortified wine that sounds fun, then take it home then play with a whole new type of Manhattan. The following recipe uses Cocchi Americano, a fortified wine flavored with cinchona, the same bittering agent in tonic water (that is, the same medicinal bark delivered through tonic water).
Cocchi Americano Manhattan
- 1 1/2 ounces good rye
- 1 1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
- Peychaud’s Bitters
- Grapefruit twist
- Fill a shaker with ice and mix ingredients well until the cocktail is chilled, about 40 seconds.
- Strain into a pretty glass, garnish with the twist, and serve.