We bought a bottle of Canadian rye whisky a few months ago, a tall handsome flask. But my husband (hereafter referred to as Barkeep) was only drinking it small nips when he felt very cold, and I don’t like whisky, so when we had some friends over for dinner — cocktail-enthusiast friends — I proposed that we make a special apéro.
Thus, our enthusiasm for the Manhattan began.
Now, before I discuss this stately beverage, I must be clear: I don’t drink Manhattans because of my aforementioned dislike for whisky (a failing, I know). But everyone else seems to derive so much pleasure from them, I thought they were worthy of a post here.
As the legend goes, the drink was named after its birthplace — the Manhattan Club — where it was invented in the 1870s, in honor of Lady Randolph Churchill, the American heiress and mother of Winston. It’s a mixture of rye whisky, sweet red vermouth, and bitters, mixed in a shaker and served up with either an eau de vie-soaked cherry, or a lemon twist.
Here’s what our house Barkeep has to say:
On taste and appearance: “It’s a wintry alternative to the martini, a little smoky with a barky, tangy flavor from the bitters. I love the rich color, like lovely, polished wood.”
On cherry vs twist: “I’ve had it with a cherry and it adds a level of sweetness that I don’t think is necessary if you’re using Italian vermouth. The twist gives it a brightness that helps balance the drink and is a nice complement to the bitters. Once, we ran out of lemons and I used grapefruit zest, which added a Floridian dimension.”
On rye vs bourbon: “I am in favor of rye over bourbon because some bourbons can be too sweet. Rye is smoky and dryer.”
Our vintage cocktail shaker (a gift from the Barkeep’s grandfather) offers the following ingredients for a Manhattan: 1/2 rye, 1/2 Italian vermouth, Angoustura bitters, maraschino, ice. But if you’d like to create your own Manhattan(s), the Barkeep recommends Esquire magazine’s recipe.