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- Classic cocktails
The classic Manhattan cocktail gets a makeover with some Indian-inspired spice. I find adding a little more bitters than you think you need is key to getting that taj-tastic flavour!
Greater London, England, UK
8 people made this
IngredientsMakes: 2 cocktails
- 110ml rye whiskey
- 30ml sweet vermouth
- 4 to 6 dashes cardamom bitters
- 2 to 4 green cardamom pods, to garnish (optional)
MethodPrep:3min ›Ready in:3min
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add rye, vermouth and bitters (I find the more bitters, the better). Shake vigorously. Strain into glasses, kick back, and enjoy with your favourite mates.
Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(3)
Reviews in English (2)
Wow. East meet west in this inventive spin on a classic cocktail. Bravo Diana, bra-vo.-03 Apr 2015
Bringing some spice from the Indies to the New York classic. Awesome.-28 Mar 2015
9-Bottle Bar Recipe: The Manhattan
The 9-Bottle Bar wouldn’t be complete without the ingredients to whip up the Manhattan, one of the quintessential classic cocktails.
The sharp, full-bodied combination of aged American whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters was likely first minted sometime in the latter half of the 1800s. Its exact origins are unknown, but clearly the bartender who created the Manhattan was on to something, because this drink has truly stood the test of time.
As cocktails come, the Manhattan is pretty straightforward. Three ingredients—one spiritous, one sweet, one bitter—stirred with ice. But its simplicity is deceptive. There’s a magic that happens when this trio plays together. The range of flavors present run from caramel to dark fruit to cloves to vanilla.
Some versions of the recipe for the Manhattan call for bourbon whiskey, some suggest Canadian. The 9-Bottle Bar version calls for rye, which was very likely used by the bartenders who made it first. The spiciness of the rye gives the drink a beautiful structure and finish. It’s a drink you’ll want to linger over, to savor.
The Manhattan was the most famous cocktail in the world shortly after it was invented in New York City’s Manhattan Club, some time around 1880 (as the story goes). Over the years, the whiskey classic has dipped in and out of fashion before finding its footing as one of the cornerstones of the craft cocktail renaissance.
Amazingly, the drink that socialites tipped to their lips in the 19th century looks and tastes pretty much the same as the one served today at any decent cocktail bar. The Manhattan’s mix of American whiskey and Italian vermouth, enlivened with a few dashes of aromatic bitters, is timeless and tasty—the very definition of what a cocktail should be.
Early versions call for rye, with its spicier, edgier profile. Purists claim that it’s not a Manhattan without it, but who has ever had fun drinking with a purist? We find that bourbon creates a beautiful, if mellower, drink. And while Angostura bitters are a must in any variation, a single dash of orange bitters helps brighten the cocktail’s edges, bringing the whiskey and vermouth together seamlessly, while the brandied cherry garnish lends a touch of sweetness.
Despite all of the Manhattan’s unassailable qualities, bartenders and enterprising drinkers have still found ways to tweak the recipe into myriad variations. If you split the vermouth between sweet and dry, you get the Perfect Manhattan. If you switch the ratios to make vermouth the star, you’ve stirred up a Reverse Manhattan. The Rob Roy is essentially a scotch Manhattan. And then you’ve got other named-for-New York cocktails like the Red Hook and Brooklyn, which employ their own twists to take the drink in new directions.
But regardless of all the options, there is only one classic Manhattan: two parts whiskey, one part sweet vermouth and bitters. Mix one (stirred, never shaken), and you’ll see why this storied drink has remained a favorite since its inception.
- 2.5 oz rye whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- dash Angostura bitters
- cocktail cherry, for garnish
Combine the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake or stir.
Fill your smoke infuser with the wood of your choice. Turn the fan on and light the wood with a lighter. Place the hose end of the smoke infuser in a martini glass with a cocktail cherry. While the smoke is filling the glass, strain the cocktail into the glass.
Cover the glass with plastic wrap and fill the top of the glass with smoke. Remove the hose and seal the plastic wrap to trap the smoke. Let sit one minute and remove the plastic wrap.
Our take on the Manhattan features Knob Creek&rsquos straight rye whiskey. This is a 100 proof whiskey that stands up well to the sweetness of the sweet vermouth. And we found that the spiciness of the rye really compliments the drink.
The smoke infuser is a simple concept, really. Fine particles of wood are placed in the chamber on top of a mesh screen. A fan pulls air from above the wood and sends it through the end of the gun. The wood is ignited with a lighter, and the steady flow of air allows the wood to burn and create smoke using only the power of the fan, while putting off almost no heat. This allows you to place smoke on top of the liquid, trap that smoke (plastic wrap), and allow the smoke to infuse into the drink.
Watch host Jackson Cannon and special guest Sabrina Kershaw as they make cocktails with rye whiskey, the star ingredient in the Golden Age of American Cocktails, catching up about the Boston restaurant and bar scene and sharing tips the pros use to make great drinks at home. On deck are the classic Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail and the ever elegant Manhattan.
Sabrina Kershaw has nearly two decades behind the bar in New Hampshire and Boston, and has spent the past six years has behind the stick at Lone Star Taco Bar in Allston.
Then Malabar ordered a power pack in her usual rapid-fire staccato: “A dry Manhattan. Standing up. With a twist. No ice. No fruit.” When the waiter tilted his head quizzically, Malabar exhaled her annoyance and repeated the order at exactly the same speed as she had the first time. I asked for a Taj Mahal beer.
—Adrienne Brodeur, WILD GAME: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me
My mother’s Manhattan’s were fairly standard, except that she tripled the typical amount of booze and never, ever added a cherry. Recipes were not Malabar’s thing— she could taste and replicate drinks, dishes, sauces without recipes! But, if I were to hazard a guess — it would go like this.
Adrienne Brodeur's recipe for her mother Malabar's favorite cocktail, the Power Pack, a perfect accompaniment to a book club discussion of Brodeur's memoir, WILD GAME.
4 – 5 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
1 ounce dry vermouth (she preferred Noilly Prat)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Place martini glass in freezer an hour before serving.
Place ice in cocktail shaker.
Add bourbon, vermouth, and Angostura bitters to shaker, and shake until shaker starts to “sweat” on the outside.
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How to Make a Manhattan
This is a classic cocktail that any whiskey drinker ought to know by heart.
- Stir the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice in a mixing glass until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a twist and/or a cocktail cherry.
The Manhattan demands respect. It is brazen: a heavy pour of rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth, and aromatic bitters. It is rich, with strong flavors both spicier and sweeter. It is strong. You make it carefully, and then you sip it slowly, because it is a drink that you earn from a hard day's work. Since the very act of emerging from underneath a duvet and facing another day in your life more than qualifies as hard labor after the year we've had, that's quite a few well-earned Manhattans coming your way.
In the annals of cocktail-making, the Manhattan is an all-around heavyweight champion. There's some debate over rye versus bourbon (rye jabs sharply, so we tend to prefer it), cocktail cherry versus lemon twist or both. It's a drink that lends itself to riffing should you be in the mood. You can tinker with your whiskey and vermouth and even the ratio between to two (within reason) until the recipe you'll always place your bets on emerges. While 2 ounces of whiskey to 1 ounce of sweet vermouth is the standard, going with 2.5 ounces of rye can make for a transcendent drink. Feel free to swap out bitters for variety, but you'll find yourself coming home to Angostura 97% of the time. And an expressed lemon twist will take the drink to a higher plain. Consider knowing how to make your Manhattan is like knowing how to properly shake hands. No weak wrists for the handshake. No ice in the cocktail. Have at it.
A Little Background
You want to know why the Manhattan is called the Manhattan? Because it is one of the best damn cocktails on record, so they named it for the best damn city in the world. Well, perhaps its origin story is not quite so jingoistic, but it's close. The Manhattan cocktail's origins are commonly traced back to the Manhattan Club, in Manhattan, in the latter half of the 19th Century, where it was crafted for a party thrown by Winston Churchill's mother. As drinks historian David Wondrich points out, that's a load of bull Lady Randolph Churchill was pregnant in England at the time of this rumored party.
But the Manhattan Club did hoard very old rye, and it did serve a Manhattan cocktail, though its recipe was different at the time. Things evolved from there. During Prohibition, Manhattans had to be served with Canadian whisky&mdashthe only whisky people could get their hand on. And, despite the years, the Manhattan is still being enjoyed in New York and all the other great metropolises. It's that good.
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If You Like This, Try These
The other very good, very classic whiskey cocktail that is made with rye or bourbon is the Old Fashioned. You know that one. Try a Whiskey Sour with rye, too. The Sazerac is another rye whiskey cocktail rich with history that you'll like. If your flavor preferences veer across the Atlantic, try a Rob Roy, which is a Manhattan made with scotch. And this is cool: the Manhattan has a New York borough neighbor, the Brooklyn cocktail, that's made with rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon.
On a parting note, we give you a formula to batch your Manhattan so you can keep a premade jug of it in the freezer. Because while one Manhattan is nice, a weeklong supply of Manhattans is pure efficiency.
Steering clear of alcoholic beverages doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the highlights of classic cocktails like the Manhattan. Melding bitters with non-alcoholic wine, vanilla extract, and apple juice closely mimics the popular beverage. The bitters add complexity to this mocktail while the vanilla extract takes place of the whiskey. As for the zero-proof wine and apple juice combo, it is used in place of sweet vermouth. The end result is a multidimensional mocktail that is potent and slightly bitter with herb and spice fueled undertones. Simply mix, stir, strain and you’re done! Along with being delicious, this alcohol-free version is a bit sweeter making it much more approachable for those whose palates aren’t as keenly honed. Try pairing this virgin Manhattan with a steak simply seasoned with coarse salt and black pepper on a cozy evening in or make virgin manhattans for a crowd accompanied by fig and arugula flatbreads if you’re playing host
Virgin Manhattan Ingredients
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 ½ ounces sweet non-alcoholic red wine
1 ounce non-alcoholic vanilla extract
1 ounce unsweetened apple juice
Directions for your Non-Alcoholic Manhattan
Add ice to a mixing glass with the bitters, non-alcoholic wine, vanilla extract, and apple juice. Stir.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Add the cherry and use a spoon to crush it against the side of the glass. Stir again.
Note: Although alcohol-based, two dashes of bitters contain trace amounts of alcohol meaning this mocktail is still considered non-alcoholic.
History of the Manhattan cocktail (before the Virgin)
History of the classy cocktail goes back to mid-1870s and early 1880s. It is said to be invented at a banquet hosted in honour of Samuel J. Tilden – who was the presidential candidate, by Jennie Jerome at the Manhattan Club in New York City. The banquet was a huge success and as a result the drink got its share of limelight too. In future get togethers, people requested for the same drink they had at the Manhattan Club and that’s how it got the name. Dr. Iain Marshall is said to be the one who concocted this drink. The cocktail is also mentioned in some prominent books of the century on various cocktail with details of their recipes.
Traditionally, the standard Manhattan cocktail is a mix of two parts of rye whiskey, one part of sweet vermouth, two dashes of bitters served with a cherry on top. However, people have changed the type of whiskey to suit their taste buds. Now, a variety of whiskey ranging from Bourbon to blended to Canadian to Tennessee are used for making this sultry iconic cocktail.
The cocktail is subjected to considerable number of variations. For instance, virgin Manhattan or a Manhattan mocktail is a non-alcoholic concoction for tea-totaler. The drink is not spiked by addition of any kind of whiskey or any other alcohol and is suitable for serving people of all ages. This mocktail is a mix of 2 parts of cranberry juice, 2 parts of orange juice, ½ teaspoon of cherry juice and ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice along with 2 dashes off orange bitters and served with a garnish of Maraschino cherry for that classic look.
In addition to these, there are other variations to these cocktails too that are made by altering the proportions or changing the alcohol type in it.
In Search of the Ultimate Manhattan
We all know there’s a Perfect Manhattan—that is, the kind that’s splits the vermouth quotient between sweet and dry varieties. But is there a perfect Manhattan?
The PUNCH staff decided to find out, culling recipes for the classic cocktail from 17 leading bartenders across America and sampling them in a blind tasting. Joining PUNCH in the tasting were bartenders Meaghan Dorman (Raines Law Room, Dear Irving, The Bennett), Joaquín Simó (Pouring Ribbons), Sother Teague (Amor y Amargo) and this reporter.
If ever a cocktail was worth the bother of such an evaluation, it’s the Manhattan. The whiskey drink’s place in the cocktail pantheon has never been questioned since it emerged from its namesake borough in the 1870s to become a national and international favorite. The Manhattan was the first of the great modern cocktails of the late-19th-century golden age of mixology to make use of vermouth as an ingredient. It predated even the mighty Martini.
Some early recipes called for equal-parts whiskey and sweet vermouth, while others asked for dry vermouth. The variety of bitters used, too, ranged wildly. But by the 1930s, the cocktail had settled down to the now familiar two-parts whiskey, one-part sweet vermouth, dash of bitters formula we recognize today as a Manhattan.
Unlike other classic cocktails, the Manhattan was never completely forgotten by the drinking public during the dark ages at the end of the last century. But it did frequently suffer from the indignities of bottom-shelf liquor, spoiled vermouth, absent bitters and maraschino cherries that had never seen a tree branch. Perhaps because of this, modern bartenders have made it a point of pride to serve a superior version of the drink.
In a blind tasting, the team sampled 17 Manhattans from bartenders across America.
The first decision when crafting a Manhattan is, of course, whether to use rye or bourbon. The bias of young bartenders toward rye was evident 12 or the 17 submitted recipes were made with the spicier spirit. The majority of panelists, too, admitted to preferring a rye Manhattan. “This is the problem with bourbon Manhattans: not enough spice notes,” declared Teague.
Still, Simó, waxing philosophical, allowed that, “It’s less about the rye. All of the ingredients in the cocktail are great on their own. But a great Manhattan is two plus two equals five. For me, a Manhattan is an idea. And there are so many roads to go there.”
The roads taken by the bartenders who were summoned, however, were relatively narrow. There was one recipe that used dry vermouth instead of sweet. Another threw in a couple dashes of Herbsaint. A third spec asked for a Tennessee whiskey. But, by and large, we were dealing with drinks made of whiskey (rye or bourbon sometimes a mix of two bourbons, or two ryes, or a bourbon and a rye), sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, though a few entries did opt for other varieties, such as Peychaud’s or orange bitters.
“I use free license to use whatever bitters I want based on the whiskey and vermouth,” said Teague. Asked about bartender mistakes they had encountered when ordering Manhattans, the panelists all cited shaken Manhattans as the most common sin, but a few also pointed to the omission of bitters (“Bitters is that central spoke” to the drink, Simó said) and the tendency of some bars mix them with too little vermouth, thinking they’re doing the customer a favor with a heavier pour of whiskey.
After the first round of tastings, only seven of the 17 Manhattans made the cut. The other ten were thought imbalanced in one way or another. Some were considered too thin, lacking body. Others were deemed flat and flabby, the victim of too much or too heavy a vermouth, or a whiskey with insufficient authority. Overall, the rye Manhattans were preferred over the bourbon entries, though two bourbon Manhattans did make the finals.
In the final estimation, the panelists—who registered only their first, second and third favorites—veered toward the Manhattans that clung most closely to the drink’s classic profile.
The top vote-getter, by New York bartender Jeremy Oertel (Death & Co.), couldn’t have been more classic: two-and-a-half ounces of Rittenhouse rye, one ounce of Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth and two dashes of Angostura bitters. The panel found the cocktail rich and full-bodied, with notes of cocoa nibs on the finish.
Close behind in the vote tally was a rendition by one of the judges himself, Joaquín Simó. Simó split the spirit base with one ounce each of Rittenhouse rye and Russell’s Reserve 10-year-old bourbon. The sweet vermouth, too, was divided: one half-ounce of Cinzano and one half-ounce of Martelletti Classico. Even the bitters were a double act, with one dash of Angostura and one dash of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters.
A bourbon Manhattan by Caitlin Laman (formerly of Trick Dog) came in third. Her two-parts whiskey to one-part vermouth, plus Angostura, formula was classic, but her liquor choices unusual. The bourbon was the oft-overlooked Johnny Drum 101, and the vermouth was the California-made Tempus Fugit Alessio Vermouth di Torino.
What can be learned from the fate of the other 14 drinks? Older whiskeys fared better with the panel then younger ones did. And rye was vastly more popular than bourbon. (Among the general public, the opposite is true.) Perhaps the biggest lesson was that a little cleverness goes only a short way. It’s fun to play around with classic cocktail specs. But the Manhattan model has probably stood the test of time for so long because it works.
It also became clear that that model, or what we expect it to be, is strikingly consistent amongst drinkers: Given the many choices, there was remarkable consensus among the panelists. Oertel’s and Simó’s Manhattans were chosen by every single judge. If the Manhattan is an idea, as Simó said, we all seemed to share the same one.