Sunday, August 19, 2012

Calling All Manhattans

People ask me all the time for my favorite cocktail and I always tell them there isn’t one. But the drink that comes closest to that description, my default notion of a cocktail, is definitely the Manhattan. And there are not less than three ingredients: whiskey, vermouth and bitters. It’s fine to tart it up occasionally with a dash of this or that but the basic three are essential to the drink. A garnish is nice but not necessary. (And for goodness’ sake, bartenders, ask me before you start pouring anything that once held preserved cherries in it. Betcha that bar guide sitting behind you doesn’t include it in the recipe.)

With that in mind, the variations are sometimes a lot of fun. My favorite Manhattans are rye ones but the right bourbon and bitters combo can be wonderful. There can be amaro-type stand-ins for the vermouth or other herbals for the cocktail bitters. Some Manhattans are more Manhattanite than others, but if you live in Red Hook and get into the city now and then, no one will think the less of you.

So I’d like to see what other people are drinking. From now through the end of September, please send in recipes—a favorite or something you thought unusual. Email me or post a comment below. I’ll write you up and link to your post, or you can have me make and photograph the drink and post it for you.

Here’s one I’ve been doing lately—sort of interesting in that it looks a little different but tastes, well, like a Manhattan.

Manhattan du Jour
  • 2 oz Rittenhouse 100
  • 3/4 oz Dolin Rouge
  • 2 dashes Bitter Truth Creole Bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist.


  1. My preferred Manhattan is nothing special, and probably not worth a post, on your part. At the very least, try it my way and post about it if you like it enough.

    I like mine with a strong and rich Bourbon that's on the sweet side with a rye-light mashbill, like a Knob Creek or a Woodford Reserve or Evan Williams (Reserve). My vermouth ratio changes, but I'll usually do it 1:3 with a vermouth that's on the lighter side like a Dolin or Noilly Prat, not like a M&R or Carpano. Not too heavy on the Angostura, maybe 2 dashes. Stirred and strained, and I'll go for an orange peel garnish as often as I'll go for the brandied cherry.

    If I ever have a bourbon in-house that seems heavy on cinnamon notes, I'll swap the Angostura for Fee's Aromatic/Whiskey Barrel, which seems quite heavy on the cinnamon.

  2. My Manhattan tastes are simple and straightforward.

    I prefer Rye when available, usually Russell's Reserve, unless I can get Rittenhouse.

    I go 3 or 4 to one. I do three to one with Rye, and 4 to one if I'm doing Bourbon, maybe even more if all the bar has is Maker's.

    And I stick with good old Angostura, several good dashes.

    And STIR.

  3. I go for 2:1, Rittenhouse Bonded and Punt e Mes, plus 3-4 hefty dashes of bitters. Cherry if proper sorts are available.

    1. I believe I can find an appropriate cherry.

  4. Love, love, love all things Manhattan. My all time fav drink and my all time fav drink to riff or try riffs (as the below links shows, I had a little fun with this last year). If I go for a riff I love the "Jerry Thomas" version or the Bushwick which is great!

    1. Hey—great Manhattan reporting yourself, there. Don’t know how I missed until now. Glad you wrote in.

      Yeah, that 1890s Manhattan so good, huh? I made it for a tasting here and it was a hit—at least with one guy, who drank his, his girlfriend’s and that of one of my colleagues. I haven’t tried a Bushwick. Sounds like maybe I should do that sometime in the next couple of posts.

  5. It is a great drink. The first time I made it, I ended up making three in a row and then it hit me (literally) that I had just three drinks with a 145 proof spirit in it. For the most part I'm a huge fan of the various riffs ... a Brooklyn, The Slope and Bushwick are awesome when one is in need of a pick-me-up.

    Great site. Will add to my blogroll.


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