The Majestic Manhattan – Variations on a Theme

Ask any cocktail lover to name a classic drink and odds are the Manhattan will play heavily in that game. Granted the Martini would be up there too, but the Manhattan holds a unique place in cocktail history, predating the Martini and being one of the first drinks to use vermouth as a principle element/complement to the spirit. As bartender/author Gaz Regan said a few years back, the Manhattan is “the king of vermouth drinks.” Enough said.

Of course, bartenders aren’t content to leave well enough alone and we should be thankful for that. The need to evolve and create new spins on the classics is part of what has made this era of drinking so magical. The Manhattan is an ideal canvas on which to experiment because of its inherent simplicity.

Generally a two-to-one ration of whiskey to sweet vermouth, a couple dashes of bitters and, like the kitchen maid Cinderella transforming into a princess, the spell is woven. If you want to have an eye-opening experience at home, simply lay out four or five glasses of the whiskey/vermouth ratio and switch out the bitters. The profile of the drink changes exponentially. The same happens, of course, if you play around with the whiskey and the vermouth ratios, or replace either with a spirit substitute. Mixing and matching, you can create your own very personal evocation of the Manhattan.

Below are some mesmerizing variations on the theme, showing us that experimentation – exchanging whiskey for apple brandy, switching out the bitters – creates drinks that are equal parts historical and modern.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood

Photo Courtesy of Dushan Zaric, Harlowe Bar, West Hollywood

West Hollywood

Courtesy of Dushan Zaric, Harlowe, West Hollywood

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Laird’s Apple Brandy
  • 1 3/4 oz. Noilly Ambre Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
  • 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Calvados-soaked miniature apple

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with Calvados apple.


Blue Collar

Blue Collar

Photo Courtesy of FEW Spirits

Blue Collar

Courtesy of Cocktail Academy

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Few Rye Whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Amaro (insert your favorite here; Cynar, Nonino, or even Fernet)
  • 1 dash Bitters

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir until chilled. Stir and strain into a coupe glass.


Washington Heights

Washington Heights

Photo Courtesy of Alex Straus

The Washington Heights

Courtesy of Alex Straus, Bon Vivants Sergeant at Arms, bartender/Grandpa Johnson’s, LA

From Straus: “This was specifically named for the largely Dominican neighborhood in northern ma-hattan, Washington Heights. For this I used the lovely Atlantico Private Cask which hails from the Dominican Republic. This is more of a direct rum Manhattan which is always a great change from the classic.”

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Atlantico Private Cask Rum
  • 1 oz. Punt Y Mes
  • 2 dashes Miracle Mile Orange Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • Cherry for Garnish

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cherry.


Mexican in Manhattan

A Mexican Manhattan

Photo Courtesy of Border Grill

A Mexican Manhattan

Courtesy of Border Grill, Santa Monica

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Casa Noble Reposado
  • 1/2 oz. Maurin Red Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Licor 43
  • 1 dash Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Bitter Truth Chocolate Mole Bitters
  • Grapefruit Peel, flamed for garnish

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, Fill glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with flamed grapefruit peel.


Boys of Summer Nightcap

Boys of Summer

Photo Courtesy of Nitecap

Boys of Summer

Courtesy of Natasha David, Nitecap, NYC

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Elijah Craig 12 yr Bourbon
  • 3/4 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
  • 1/2 oz. Old Granddad 114 Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Suze

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a Nick and Nora glass.