Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The First Drink - Classic Manhattan

Classic Manhattan Ingredients

In researching the Manhattan, I came away with little proof of its origin. You can read the same for yourself in the Wikipedia entry which nicely sets out a few of the origin-stories.

“A popular history suggests that the drink originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston's mother) in honor of presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet made the drink fashionable, later prompting several people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated — "the Manhattan cocktail."[4][5] However, Lady Randolph was in France at the time and pregnant, so the story is likely a fiction. The original "Manhattan cocktail" was a mix of "American Whiskey, Italian Vermouth and Angostura bitters".”

I love this story because it has no basis in fact, and it's possible Lady Randolph drank heavily on the whiskey while pregnant (was she pregnant with Winston?).

The Recipe

Classic Manhattan 


2 ounces rye, bourbon, or blended Canadian whisky
3/4 ounces sweet vermouth
2 to 3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry

Stir the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

For this recipe, I'm using Woodford Reserve bourbon, and Gallo sweet vermouth.  Mixing everything together was easy.  Taking the photos though, not as easy.

Steady now, steady

The finished product is pretty striking.  Against a white backdrop, the amber color of the bourbon looks good.

Classic Manhattan

My initial thought was how sweet the drink tasted, far sweeter than I ever remember at a bar. No doubt that the sweet vermouth is the likely culprit. It's also likely that my tastes have evolved. At one time, appreciating 40% alcohol, was just not going to happen. Now, I feel as though I can actually taste something, as opposed to a time not long ago when nearly all shots felt like someone poured rubbing alcohol down my throat. Neat scotch is my drink of choice, and so the flavor of the sweet vermouth is a little cloyingly sweet compared to what my impression would have been of the same drink even a few years ago.

I think the Woodford does make it drinkable. I love Woodford. It's probably my favorite commonly available bourbon. I can taste the bourbon through the sweet vermouth, even if my first reaction is the sugary buzz that I'm picking up right away.

I like the drink and I like the recipe, but I don't know how many of these I could consume. It's like any other sweet food or drink - a little goes a long way. I think one is enough. I think this might be a good choice before or after dinner. It's sweet enough that it's whet my appetite; it's about 6pm now, a good time to start thinking about dinner in an hour or two.

Looking forward to making a drier version of the Manhattan, I think it will be more suited to my tastes.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

sounds like too much sweet vermout - I'd cut back to 1/2 ounce or less.

The Amateur Mixologist on February 18, 2010 at 9:04 PM said...

Agreed. I think it's probably much better without as much sweet vermouth. I do wonder how much a difference it makes with a dryer bourbon too.

Anonymous said...

It's the bourbon for me that makes the drink too sweet. I like manhattans 3-to-1 whiskey to vermouth, using rye or sometimes a combination of rye and bourbon--if I'm wanting something sweeter. The vermouth brand can make a difference too probably--I've never had Gallo, but think both Vya and Cocchi are fantastic products (good enough for drinking on their own merits). I also like adding a small dash of a marashino liquor (like Luxardo) and substituting orange bitters for the angostura. I'd definitely recommend playing around with manhattans more--they can be fantastic.

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