Classic Cocktails: The Manhattan

A Perfect ManhattanOne of my favorite cocktails is an old classic:  The sweet, smoky, and slightly spicy Manhattan.  It’s simple to make and can be easily modified in a number of ways to suit individual taste.

Like many classics, the true origin of the Manhattan is unclear.  One of the most common explanations is that the drink was invented at New York’s Manhattan club in the 1870s for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Lady Randolph Churchill), Winston Churchill’s mother.  There are reports that the Lady was pregnant in France at the time, so the story is likely untrue.

The traditional recipe calls for only three ingredients (four if you include the garnish):

  • 2 parts rye whiskey
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • a dash of Angostura bitters
  • maraschino cherry for garnish

Simply combine the first three ingredients and gently stir* them with ice for 15 to 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with the cherry in the bottom of the glass, and enjoy.

Variations include changing the whiskey (I prefer bourbon) or the bitters (try orange bitters, or chocolate if you have them), using different vermouth (replace half the sweet vermouth in the basic recipe with dry to make a Perfect Manhattan), or adding some cherry juice for extra sweetness (making it a Sweet Manhattan).  Many versions change the spirit to something entirely different than whiskey, such as port (a Ruby Manhattan), dark rum (a Cuban Manhattan), or Anejo (aged/vintage) tequila (a Tijuana Manhattan).  The possibilities are endless.

How do you like yours?


* Shaking or over-stirring your Manhattan will introduce air bubbles, causing it to not be as smooth as it should be (i.e.: like silk).  It will also “bruise” the alcohol (a small amount of ice will melt, diluting your drink).  Both of these are bad things, and you probably don’t want them.


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