The Perfect Manhattan Cocktail
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 assertive. The traditional garnish is a maraschino cherry, and even that can be upgraded. Here’s how I make the best Manhattan around.
WHISKEY I usually make my Manhattan with a middle-of-the-road brand of whiskey. Four Roses is my favorite cocktail bourbon, and Rittenhouse is a reliable and venerable rye. VERMOUTH 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. BITTERS 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, although other brands have a bit more character. My two essentials, which I swap according to mood, are Regan’s Orange Number Five Bitters and Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. CHERRIES 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 to refrain from eating the imported cherrie out of the jar. And if you have ever considered doing the same with maraschino cherries, you have my sympathy.
- 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.
Cherry Manhattan. Add 2 teaspoons of the cherry syrup to the cocktail shaker with the other ingredients. Substitute cherry bitters for the aromatic bitters. Garnish with 2 cherries.
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