2 oz rye whiskey
½ oz dry vermouth
½ oz Cio Ciaro, Ramazotti, or China China Amer
heavy ¼ oz Maraschino (2 teaspooons)
Combine all ingredients in a chilled mixing glass. Fill with ice, stir for 18-25 seconds. Then strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass. This is traditionally served with no garnish, though an expressed lemon or orange peel sure is tasty.
Having lived in Brooklyn for 12 years and started a family here, any cocktail named after Brooklyn would hold a special place in my heart regardless of matter what was in it. But lucky for me, the classic Brooklyn cocktail happens to be right in my wheelhouse: whiskey and stirred.
The drink is a clear descendant of the Manhattan - my all-time favorite cocktail - but still possesses a singular identity. Rightfully so, Brooklynites don't trouble themselves with what's going on in Manhattan. We do our own thing. For me, the drink's defining characteristic is that it contains dry vermouth instead of sweet (though this is controversial, more on that below) which gives it a lighter tone. It also exhibits a touch more bitterness and some fruit notes which is a nice contrast to the classic Manhattan.
The Brooklyn is one of those drinks that may require some additions to your liquor cabinet. But if you love Manhattans half as much as I do the effort will be well rewarded. Plus, those new bottles can be applied to a slew of other Manhattan variants, which you can peruse in variations section on the Manhattan page.
Amer Picon is a French bitter liqueur with a disinvite orange note. It called for by name in the original Brooklyn cocktail recipes. Unfortunately, it is no longer available. There is still an Amer Picon produced but it's lower proof and uses an altogether different formula than the original, so there's no point in hunting down a bottle. Plus, it's not even available in the U.S.
Instead, there are several other bitter liqueurs you can use which accomplish the same goal. You want an amaro that isn’t too aggressively bitter that also features an orange note. Cio Ciaro and Ramazzotti, or China China Amer are my favorites. For more on the history and some more involved DIY recipes for Amer Picon, check out this great article on Punch.
FYI, the "Amer" in Amer Picon and China China Amer, is just the French version of Amaro, which is Italian. Each translates to "bitter" in their recpetive language and refers to their country's style of bitter liqueurs.
The History, and Battle, of the Brooklyn Cocktail
There may be more incarnations of the Brooklyn cocktail than any other drink in existence. Not that they’re all still around. At the turn of the 20th century, with the Manhattan and Bronx cocktails firmly established, there were repeated attempts to supply Brooklyn with a namesake drink of its own. Some versions stuck to the whiskey-forward Manhattan formula, while others bared no resemblance and contained ingredients like rum, grapefruit juice, and grenadine. Thankfully, the former won out.
But while the recipe I’ve listed here is derived from the widely accepted survivor, some still argue it’s legitimacy. Notably the great David Wondrich, which is why I’m compelled, somewhat guiltily, to defend my use of it.
You see, originally this version of the Brooklyn cocktail - which was created around 1910 - had sweet vermouth. So it was basically a Manhattan with a dash of Amer Picon and Maraschino. But as it began to appear in cocktail books, somehow the recipe was printed with dry vermouth, which was seemingly a misprint or arbitrary edit. But no one stepped in to correct the error, so by the time it appeared in the hugely influential 1930 Savoy Cocktail book, the die was cast. The dry vermouth version of the Brooklyn became the recipe that endured post-Prohibition and found a new life in the modern cocktail renaissance. By the time Dave Wondrich came riding in to lift the veil from over our eyes, it was too late.
Wondrich leaves little doubt about his disdain for a Brooklyn with dry vermouth in his book “Imbibe!”, which is fair. It does indeed appear that the recipe was created by mistake. But that doesn't change the fact that it's delicious. In fact, I prefer it the dry vermouth Brooklyn. I love Manhattan variations - or maybe I should call them Brooklyn variations - using dry vermouth, with liqueurs for sweetness. I've created a few of them myself. Their levity allows others to come to the forefront, which I think can make for a more nuanced drink, and a very satisfying one.
On top of all that, I think dry vermouth gives the Brooklyn more character. It's not that it's bad with sweet vermouth, but there are plenty of Manhattan variations that just have an added dash of this or that. Dry vermouth sets the Brooklyn apart. It isn't living under the Manhattan’s shadow. So while it may not have been initially intended, I think in the end, the Brooklyn cocktail has found its way home.