rye whiskey, social hour, tom macy, cocktail, classic cocktail

Manhattan

Recipe

  • 2 ½ oz  rye whiskey - or bourbon

  • 1 oz sweet vermouth - ¾ oz for bourbon

  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

 

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. Garnish with a cherry, if you have one.

 

A Manhattan is also mighty fine served on the rocks.

 

Commentary 


 

 

Bourbon or Rye

Manhattans were traditionally made with rye whiskey since that was the whiskey of choice back in the 19th century.  But bourbon, being the current American whiskey of choice, is now more common.  I generally prefer rye because it asserts itself next to the sweet vermouth a little more, Rittenhouse, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, and High West Double Rye are my favorites. But bourbon makes a darn tasty Manhattan too, particularly higher rye bourbons, like Old Forrester Signature, for one.  I find bourbon allows the vermouth to express itself a bit more, particularly if it has some bitterness.  So either way, you really can't lose.  

 

Sweet vermouth

I particularly like Dolin Rouge or Carpano Antica in Manhattans, though there are a lot of other excellent new vermouths hitting the market nowadays which are worth exploring.  The big three vermouth brands - Martini & Rossi, Noilly Prat, and Cinzano - all work just fine in a Manhattan as well.

 

My Grandpa Bud's Perfect Manhattan

While I personally prefer a traditional Manhattan, I have a great reverence for the Perfect variation.  It was my Grandpa Bud's drink of choice, who, alongside my Grandma Susie, established the Social Hour tradition in my family - which you can read more about here.  My parents also habitually take their Manhattans perfect, and whenever I go home, that's how I take mine.  My grandfather had his own peculiar twist of garnishing his with an olive, which I found at once odd, endearing and surprisingly quite tasty.  I think, to him, it was the dry vermouth's equivalent to a cherry, which is sound logic.  He also went as far as to batch the vermouths together ahead of time, for added efficiency.   

 

Bud passed away in late June of 2011, a week before his and Susie's 69th Anniversary.  Susie passed 5 years later, just this past summer.   As I was picking through their liquor cabinet, which had been collecting more dust than serving drinks in recent years, I came across a still batched vermouth blend, which you can see a below. Written on the front of the bottle is Bud's recipe for a "mini" Manhattan, which is all he had been sequestered to in his later years, doctor's orders.   

So for me, the Manhattan, particularly the Perfect variation, is an emblem of a cocktail's true worth, and it has nothing to do with alcohol.

A Perfect Manhattan garnished with an olive, Grandpa Bud style. 

Overview

The Manhattan is pound for pound my favorite cocktail of all time.  It is simple, yet still subtle and complex, endlessly satisfying, plus, it's made with whiskey.

 

Many traditional recipes call for 2 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth, but I like mine a little more whiskey forward so I go with the ratios listed below. But, feel free to customize to your taste.

Regarding which whiskey and vermouth to pair together, I leave that adventure to you.  I've experienced many different outcomes but have  I've never encountered a combination that disappointed me, which is another reason I love this cocktail so much.  Regardless of how the journey changes, the destination is always reliably satisfying.

Manhattan Variations

Another wonderful trait of the Manhattan is its adaptability.  Bartenders have been using it as a template since its inception to spin new creations off of by adding different vermouths, other fortified wines, liqueurs and amari (Italian bitter liqueurs). 

 

Here are a handful of my favorite Manhattan variation, as well as a few personal creations.  As you’ll notice, a tradition has emerged of naming them after NYC neighborhoods and boroughs. Additionally, you'll also see that a lot of these cocktails start to bleed together, with sometimes just ¼ ounce of an ingredient separating one from another.  This is a great lesson in how to modify the Manhattan in general.  An extra dash of bitters, a splash of liqueur here, an orange twist there, and it becomes an entirely new drink.  

All these drinks are prepared the same as above, stirred and served straight up.  A few of them include some very specific ingredients or brands, some of which may be tough to find.  But I can assure you, you can get any and all of these next time you visit Clover Club!

*A drink that I created.

Perfect Manhattan 

A "Perfect" Manhattan is a Manhattan that is made with both sweet and dry vermouth.    This isn't to suggest that a traditional Manhattan is imperfect - though I suppose given the terminology that would be technically correct - rather, it's just two another way of making the same drink, like a dirty or dry Martini.  I find bourbon works particularly well in Perfect Manhattans because the sweetness balances with the dry vermouth.  Many people like to garnish these with a lemon twist, orange is nice too, but that's your call.  

 

This drink holds a particularly special place in my heart.  See below.

 

2 ½ oz rye or bourbon

½ oz sweet vermouth

½ oz dry vermouth

2 dashes Angostura bitters

 

 

The Slope

This was created by my partner Julie Reiner, and was first served at the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, the first of her multiple pioneering bars.  The apricot liqueur gives the drink a nice fruity lift without adding much sweetness and the bitterness from the Punt e Mes helps to give it some roots.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

¾ oz Punt y Mes - or another sweet vermouth, preferably on the bitter side.

¼ oz Apricot liqueur

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Garnished with a cherry

 

Red Hook

Enzo Errico created this one at another trailblazing cocktail bar, Milk & Honey, in 2004.  It paved the way for many modern Manhattan riffs.  The recipe reads sweet but is surprisingly well-balanced, and very tasty.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

¾ oz sweet vermouth

½ oz Maraschino

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir and serve straight up 

Garnish with a cherry

 

 

Carroll Gardens

Joaquín Simó, a proprietor of Pouring Ribbons and hugely influential bartender of this modern era, created this cocktail, which as it happens is named after the neighborhood where Clover Club is located.  This is cocktail a deep, dark, and has a bitter edge with the slightest hint of fruit.

 

2 oz rye whiskey

½ oz Punt e Mes - see note under The Slope cocktail.

½ oz Nardini Amaro
scant teaspoon Maraschino

Stir and strain into a coupe

Garnish: Expressed and discarded lemon twist

 

 

Little Italy

Audrey Sanders is one of the part owners of Pegu Club, along with my partner Julie Reiner (who hand picked Audrey to run the bar program).  The inclusion of Cynar makes Audrey's riff on the Manhattan is probably the most bitter of the lot.  Also, unlike many of the others variants here, this one actually is named after a neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan, as opposed to Brooklyn.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

¾ oz sweet vermouth

½ oz Cynar - it’s ever better, and boozier, with Cynar 70

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir and serve straight up 

Garnish with 2 cherries

 

 

*Peat’s Dragon

Another one of my personal Manhattan variations, can you tell I like this drink?  This is the only one here that specifically calls for bourbon. As the name suggests, it's got a distinctively peaty, aka smoky, edge.  If you don't have Compass Box Peat Monster, you can substitute with peaty Islay single malt or a similarly smoky scotch.  But the Cappelletti Sfumato is the one dealbreaker, it can't really be replaced without significantly altering the drink.

 

2¼ oz bourbon

½ oz Cappelletti, Amaro Sfumato 

½ oz Lustau East India Lustau

¼ oz white vermouth - I prefer Dolin Blanc

½ teaspoon Compass Box Peat Monster

Garnish with an orange twist

Brooklyn

There may be more incarnations of the Brooklyn than any other cocktail in existence.  At the turn of the 20th century, with the Manhattan cocktail firmly established, there were repeated attempts to supply Brooklyn with a namesake drink of its own.  Some versions stuck closer to the whiskey-forward Manhattan formula, others bared no resemblance and contained ingredients like rum, grapefruit juice, and grenadine.  Thankfully, the former won out.  

 

The recipe below is the one that’s survived (though some still argue it’s legitimacy).  Regardless, this is a very tasty drink.  Amer Picon is a bitter liqueur with a heavy orange note, and sadly no longer available in the United States.  It can be purchased in Europe, though the version that exists today is lower proof and altogether different from the original Amer Picon used to create this recipe.  So I wouldn’t go to great lengths trying to acquire some.  Instead, there are several other bitter liqueurs you can use as an alternative; China China Amer is my favorite, Cio Ciaro and Ramazotti are two others, perhaps add a dash of orange bitters when using the latter.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

½ oz dry vermouth

½ oz Amer Picon or China China Amer/Ramazotti/Cio Ciaro (plus 1 dash orange bitter for the last two)

¼ oz Maraschino

No Garnish

 

 

 

Greenpoint

Created in 2006 by Michael McIlroy at the trailblazing NYC cocktail bar Milk & Honey.  The combination of the bitter Punt e Mes - a brand of sweet vermouth - and herbaceous Chartreuse make this one simultaneously dark, bitter, and bright.  It's one of my favorite Manhattan variations.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

½ oz Punt e Mes

½ oz yellow Chartreuse - or green for a more Chartreuse forward version

dash Angostura bitters

dash orange bitters

Garnished with an orange peel

 

 

 

Bensonhurst

Another variation hailing from a Pegu Club bartender, this time Chad Solomon, in 2006.  This is one of my favorites and the drink that taught me how well dry vermouth works in a Manhattan when balanced with sweet liqueur, similar to the Brooklyn cocktail.  As you can see, I took this approach with both the Bay Ridge and Rhapsody in Rye.

 

2 ½ oz rye whiskey

1 oz dry vermouth

¼ oz Luxardo maraschino

1 barspoon (¾ teaspoon) Cynar

No Garnish

 

 

 

*Bay Ridge

This is my contribution to the Manhattan-named-for-an-NYC-neighborhood-trend. I live in Bay Ridge, and thought it deserved a cocktail too.  The prune brandy - which is barrel aged plum brandy - is the key here.  It gives the cocktail some levity in a similar fashion to the apricot in The Slope. Admittedly that ingredient will be tough to find, but we can make you one of these any time you swing by Clover Club.

 

2 oz rye whiskey

½ oz dry vermouth

½ oz Benedictine

¼ oz La Vieille Prune Brandy

2 dash Angostura bitters

2 dash orange bitters

Garnished with an orange twist

 

 

*Rhapsody in Rye

I created this to the be the signature Manhattan at a bar called Bar 54, which Julie Reiner and I did the bar program for.  It's on the rooftop of the Grand Hyatt Hotel Times Square in NYC.  

 

2 oz rye whiskey

¾ oz dry vermouth

½ oz Ramazotti

½ oz Benedictine

1 dash Angostura Bitters

1 dash orange bitters

Garnished with an orange twist

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

If you make  Manhattan, let me see!  Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.

Found in my grandparents Bud & Susie's liquor cabinet.

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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