With the Mad Men premiere on its way, I am feeling very Don Draper these days (I wish people would quit mistaking me for Jon Hamm!) The Manhattan is a retro cocktail that is re-establishing itself. It has long been one of my favorites, but in recent years, I have been improving the drink by using high-quality ingredients. A Manhattan only has three ingredients, so they had better be great, as each flavor is strong. The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry, and even that can be upgraded. Here's how I make the best Manhattan around...
Makes 1 drink
Here’s the original formula:
2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 or 3 dashes aromatic bitters
Preserved cherry, for garnish
Chill a cocktail glass. Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Stir well. Strain into the glass. Add the cherry and serve.
I have come to prefer the more rounded flavor of bourbon to rye over the years. I sip bourbon on its own, but only use rye for mixed drinks. Four Roses, a venerable brand, has long been a favorite. But when I found out that they are the only bourbon maker who uses non-GMA corn in their mash, I was convinced that my palate matched my politics. The Single Barrel uses quite a bit of rye in the mash along with the corn, so even traditionalists who like rye whiskey in their Manhattan are likely to be satisfied.
There is vermouth, and then there is Carpano Antica Formula. This is the original Italian vermouth. There was a time when Italian vermouth meant the red or sweet version, and French vermouth indicated the dry, white variety. The Carpano family has been making this spicy, herbaceous vermouth since the late eighteenth century. It vastly improves any cocktail that uses red vermouth, and is wonderful on the rocks with a twist as an aperitif.
If you are new to being a home mixologist, you might not have bitters, and if you do, it is likely to be Angostura. Nothing wrong with Angostura…it is just that there are bitters that are more flavorful. Along with Regan’s Orange Number Five Bitters, my go-to bottle is Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. It has spicy notes that are perfect with the bourbon and vermouth.
Maraschino cherries—yech. (OK, maybe when I order a Shirley Temple…as if!) Look for Luxardo Marasca Cherries, which are imported from Italy in a thick cherry syrup. American maraschinos are drained of all color and flavor, and then pumped with artificial replacements. What the…? You will have to force yourself from eating these out of the bottle. And if you have ever considered doing the same with maraschino cherries, you have my sympathy.