Getting Manhattanized

Why do my thoughts turn to cocktails this time of year more than most? It doesn't matter. They do and that's that.

Paul Clark, writing under the "PROOF" banner of the New York Times has an outstanding post about the revival of the American Cocktail Culture. It's inspiring, actually. One is left, upon reading it, with a desire to set out on the road looking for America's finest builder of Manhattans or the simple artisan behind the bar dedicated to mixing up something authentic and old and found in a book on mixing from the first decade of the last century.

Of late I have been drinking my fair share of Manhattans. Bacarin SF made a lovely one as did Mark at The Girl & the Fig here in Sonoma. The Manhattan appears to have come back into style.

The beauty of the Manhattan is that it can be used as the base for showing off a bartender's own personal style. To that point, the traditional Manhattan consists of some form of Whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. However, I've noticed a number of bartenders forgoing the bitters all together. I prefer the bitters included.

What I've noticed is that the way the customer tends to personalize their Manhattan boils down to the type of whiskey they order with it. I prefer Makers Mark. A lovely friend of mine prefers Crown Royal. But what's most important for me is that the Manhattan not come with a froth on top. That means stir it with ice, but don't shake it. I want my Manhattan to be clear, like my mind before it is Manhattanized.

Posted In: Culture and Wine


6 Responses

  1. Dylan - December 26, 2008

    It’s nice to see someone share the sentiment. I had been on a business trip to Louisville, Kentucky about a year ago during the summer. While there, I couldn’t resist sampling every straight whiskey/bourbon available to discover my favorite in the bunch; Maker’s Mark took the crown for me. My favorite dessert treat, a Bourbon Rootbeer Float; the interaction with the vanilla ice cream and more bitter qualities of the soda are fantastic.

  2. dhonig - December 26, 2008

    Rye goes in a Manhattan. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on some, try Mitchener’s Rye. Or don’t, because you will regret (a) when your bottle is empty, (b) when you can’t find another, and (c) when bars not only don’t carry Mitchener’s, but don’t carry any Rye at all.

  3. el jefe - December 26, 2008

    Makers Mark yes, but if I can get Bulleit or a decent rye, even better. And absolutely yes bitters and no stinking cherry juice!

  4. Benito - December 27, 2008

    A Manhattan is a great test of a bartender. If he hands you a glass of Southern Comfort and 7-Up with some cherry juice spilled in it, then perhaps you should move to another watering hole.
    Lately I’ve been playing around with a “Perfect” Manhattan, in which you use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth (both Noilly Prat for me). A dash of Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Bitters completes it nicely.
    Bourbon soaked cherries are also great but hard to find.

  5. Tim Price - December 28, 2008

    Tom, if you get to San Francisco try one of the specialty Manhattans at the Presidio Social Club. My favorite, the “100 Reasons Rye”. They make each one with such respect, careful measuring, even heating the fresh orange slice garnish to bring out the essential oils. When I brought up that crude practice of shaking a Manhattan, Frank the bartender was suitably appalled at the thought.

  6. St. Vini - December 30, 2008

    “While there, I couldn’t resist sampling every straight whiskey/bourbon available to discover my favorite in the bunch”
    You tried every whiskey/bourbon in Kentucky and you liked MM the best?!?
    I’m going to assume you were mostly sampling from larger producers like Beam and Jack?
    Surely you didn’t try Four Roses. If you liked MM best after that, I’ll buy you a box of Peter Vella….

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