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.
Courtesy of Dushan Zaric, Harlowe, West Hollywood
- 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.
Courtesy of Cocktail Academy
- 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.
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.”
- 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.
A Mexican Manhattan
Courtesy of Border Grill, Santa Monica
- 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
Courtesy of Natasha David, Nitecap, NYC
- 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.