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The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.

The Manhatten: Finding the perfect balance, part 2.


The Manhatten is very much like the Old-Fashioned in the sense that it seems as though it should be one of the simplest drinks in the world to prepare. It’s only made with three ingredients – what could possibly go wrong? Let’s just throw them in a mixing glass, stir ’em up, and pour! Right? Wrong! I think you’re all getting to know me better than that! The trick is in finding the right balance between the ingredients that make up the Manhatten, and also in understanding and respecting the role that each ingredient has to play. Only then can you create the drink in the way in which it was intended to be made, and, as a bonus, you can even reach a little farther and begin to come up with your own variations. So let’s consider what’s actually in a Manhatten. First we have rye whiskey, which is going to be drier (or less sweet) than the bourbon we used in last week’s Old-Fashioned. I also find that rye has a distinct spiciness to it and that’s what makes it work so well with the sweet vermouth. These two elements bring the drink into balance, but we still need one more ingredient to tie it all together and that’s where the bitters come in. There’s a great exercise in the new Death & Co Modern Classic Cocktails book that has you make three different Manhattens. In the first one, you use considerably less vermouth. In the second variation, you leave out the bitters. Finally, you follow the recipe just as it is. Tasting the drinks side by side really illustrates the importance of each component. Give it a try! It’s a little like being back in high school chemistry.

2.5 oz rye whiskey*
3/4 oz sweet vermouth**
2 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters***
1 Italian Amarena cherry for garnishing****

Place all the ingredients in the larger half of a shaker tin or in a very pretty mixing glass (if you have that special someone sitting in front of you). Add ice to the shaker (or glass) until its about 2/3 full. Too much ice will make it hard for you to stir; too little will not chill the drink. Stir the drink with a long handled bar spoon for a good 15-20 seconds. When the drink is chilled, strain it using a Julep strainer, and pour it into a chilled cocktail glass. Drop the cherry into the glass and serve.

*I used Bulleit rye for my Manhatten. Redemption is also a good choice if you don’t have a favorite.

**Two options here: Carpano Antica Formula (sweeter) or Punt e Mes (a bit more complex and bitter). I love the Punt e Mes.

***Try Fee Brothers, Scrappy’s, Bittermilk, Hella Bitters or any other hand-crafted bitters.

****Available locally in the cheese department of Whole Foods.

Cocktail coupe glass made by Schott Zwiesel.

As you can see there are lots of options here. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you come up with which combination of ingredients you like best. Enjoy!


Let’s Stir Things Up!

Let’s Stir Things Up!


manhattencloseup2Happy Monday! Last week we talked about how a built drink is made right in the glass in which you plan to serve it. This week we’re focusing on stirred drinks, which are prepared in a separate mixing vessel and then strained into a glass. They are very similar in many ways, but there are differences too. Stirred drinks are smooth, with very little texture (think no air bubbles here). They are also very clear with almost no cloudiness at all. You should be able to see right through them in the glass. These same two things are true of built drinks. For me there are three main differences between the two ways of making cocktails, the first being the ingredients involved. When a drink recipe calls for more than one form of alcohol (and no citrus), then I know I’m going to make it as a stirred drink. In a Manhatten, for example, I need to incorporate rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters together. I want to make sure they’re well-combined, so it makes sense to be stirring them in something larger. Along these same lines, if a drink is going to be served up (with no ice) in a cocktail glass, then we know for sure we’re not mixing directly in that glass. It would be impossible! The final factor for me is temperature. If you’re a person who likes Negronis (I happen to love them) then you know that you like them to be very cold. There’s no way to achieve that temperature by stirring directly in a glass. You need a lot more ice and a lot more time to sir.


When I make a stirred drink I add my ingredients to the mixing glass and pour in some ice. If I have a choice I like to use medium sized cubes here, nothing too small because they will melt too quickly and overdilute the drink. I use a mixing glass when I’m making a drink in front of someone that I want to impress because it makes a nicer presentation. When I’m making a drink for my husband (sorry Joe, humor is important in blog posts) I go with one half of a shaker tin. Metal gets cold a lot more quickly than glass so it brings the temperature of the drink down faster. Your choice here – either will work. Once the ingredients and the ice are in the glass (or tin) I use a long handled bar spoon to stir and stir and stir (about 15-20 seconds for me). I try to stir for the same amount of time whenever I prepare a drink this way so that my drinks are consistently at the same temperature. I also try to stir smoothly (easier said than done for a home bartender!) so that I don’t get a lot of air into the drink and cloud it up. Finally, once the drink is ready, I strain it into a glass using a julep strainer and add my garnishes.


Check back with me tomorrow and we’ll make a Manhatten together!