Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Manhattan Project

One great thing about the Manhattan cocktail is how much variety the structure of the drink affords.

You have whiskey, you have vermouth, you have bitters, you have garnish.

Which whiskey? Bourbon, rye, Canadian, American[, corn, malt, spelt]? Within the categories, which specific brands?

Which vermouth? Sweet, dry, both? Within the categories, which specific brands?

Which bitters? Which garnish?

And what's the ratio?

The answer to one question depends on the answers to the other questions. The same whiskey with different vermouths may call for different ratios and different bitters.

The circumstances can also change how a Manhattan might be made, and not just in terms of the ingredients. Any proper Manhattan is stirred and strained into a chilled cocktail glass...but maybe there are times and places for improper Manhattans, served on the rocks, or even at room temperature.

A while back, I spent a week working on my house Manhattan recipe. It took a full week because, on the one hand, each experiment resulted in a drinkable cocktail. I judge a cocktail in part on how it feels drinking it, and it always feels different when it's the second cocktail of the day evening, so I limited myself to one experiment a day.

It took only a week, on the other hand, because after five or seven variations I'd found one that was 

a) tasty enough, with the differences from experiment to experiment getting pretty small; and

b) just fussy enough to make me feel like I'm doing something a little special, without working too hard at it.

So here's my current House Manhattan recipe:

  • 2.5 oz Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond
  • 1 oz. Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Peychaud's bitters
  • 1 Luxardo maraschino cherry for garnish

Add rye, vermouth, and bitters to stirring glass. Add ice (8 cubes, if you have the same ice maker I do). Stir 64 times. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Place cherry in bottom of glass.

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