Nole reminded me recently that we have been remiss in writing about one of the most basic, and one of the best, cocktails of all time: the Manhattan. Sweet and oaky, spicy and rich, the Manhattan should be a cornerstone of every cocktail repertoire. – Andrew
Illustration by Caitlin Keegan for Oh So Beautiful Paper
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Bitters
Combine everything with lots of ice, stir well, and strain into a chilled tumbler. Enjoy!
The recipe above is my personal favorite and will serve up a fantastic drink, but treat it as a template rather than a rule. Consider bourbon instead of rye for a smoother, sweeter version. Or Punt-e-Mes instead of sweet vermouth for a bitter, sharper drink. Or try flipping the recipe, with two parts vermouth to one part whiskey, for a lighter and more aromatic drink. Or try adding a dash or two of absinthe or maraschino liqueur, two ingredients that pop up in many of the original versions of this recipe. Over ice or straight up, with a cherry or a lemon twist or no garnish at all, this is a pretty good drink.
Just make sure that, whatever permutation you try, you don’t forget the bitters. Bitters make this drink. I’m a fan of a dash of Angostura and a dash of Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters, but just make sure there are bitters. (I think that, for a long time, bartenders forgot that Manhattans need bitters and served many terrible Manhattans. Fortunately, most have remembered again.)
The Manhattan is – for very good reason – one of David Embury’s six basic cocktails that everyone should know. It’s easy to see why: incredibly simple to make, incredibly delicious. If I was limited to just one cocktail for the rest of my life, it would be a close call between the Manhattan and Sazerac.
The Manhattan was almost certainly invented in New York (for reasons that are hopefully obvious). Beyond that, not a lot is known about its origins. The drink probably dates back to the late 1800s, but most stories of its invention don’t pass the smell test. I suspect, without any evidence but taste and a bit of logic, that the Manhattan descends (like the Martini) from the Martinez cocktail, making it the cousin of the Martini.
I like the idea of drinks having family trees.
Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper