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!


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