• MxMo XCVII Cocktail: The Perfectly Perfect Manhattan

    perfect4Time again for Mixology Monday! Let’s get right to the booze. This month’s theme is from our fearless leader, Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut is “I’ll Take Manhattan”. Thanks again to Fred for hosting…here is the breakdown:

    mxmologoTurning to David Wondrich’s Imbibe! for some historical reference, he bandied back and forth about possible creators and locales for this classic’s creation. Perhaps it was created many places and many times, for sweet vermouth was the new hot ingredient of the 1870s and 1880s as St. Germain was in 2007 and 2008 (and arguably even to today). Wondrich quoted from the anonymously penned 1898 Cocktails: How To Make Them, “The addition of Vermouth was the first move toward the blending of cocktails.” In my mind, the Manhattan takes the Old Fashioned one step further. Not only does it replace the sugar with sweet vermouth, but this sweetener ties its herbal notes to those of the bitters and its spice notes to the barrel-aged whiskey (especially rye whiskey) as well as the bitters again. Furthermore, the addition of a hint of fruit and caramel flavoring is a welcome addition to the mix (I will not directly draw any link to the vermouth’s fruit and the cherry garnish though). While there have been a variety of Manhattan variations through the years such as the Preakness and the Brooklyn, most of the twentieth century saw this drink unchanged, in theory that is… However, the last decade or so has seen a renewal in the drink begin made correctly. Moreover, I would point to New York City cerca 2005 as the re-birth of the Manhattan variation with drinks like the Red Hook being born. For this theme, actuate it any way you’d like as long as the drink resembles a Manhattan. Want to take 19th century Manhattan recipes or variations to the test? …Or perhaps subbing out the whiskey or vermouth for another ingredient or adding in a liqueur or other modifier or so to the mix? Awesome, you’re right on track! There are plenty of Manhattan and Manhattan variations out there in the literature, and theres plenty of room to explore and tinker if that’s your thing, too.

    Great theme. The only bummer for us is that we would easily choose the Brooklyn, one of our favorite cocktails, but also one we have blogged about (one of our most popular posts, in fact) and is already in the announcement post. Happily, the Brooklyn itself is a riff on another classic Manhattan variant, the “Perfect Manhattan”.

    perfectperfect1perfect2So what makes it “perfect”? Basically, the Perfect Manhattan adds dry vermouth along with sweet vermouth of the classic Manhattan. And when you use rye whiskey for your Manhattans (and we do prefer rye), the herbal flavors of the dry vermouth lighten the overall taste of the cocktail and compliment the rye’s “spicy” notes. Adding both a dash of Angostura and Orange bitters gives you citrus notes and a dry edge to the finish. Overall, the Perfect Manhattan is the “right” Manhattan to try if you find the classic version a bit heavy and sweet. (It is much less of a “brown drink” as Carolyn would say.)

    The other “perfect” thing about the Perfect Manhattan is that if you like cocktails at all, the recipe uses ingredients that you should have. Rittenhouse rye, sweet and dry vermouth, Angostura bitters and orange bitters are all staples of a good home cocktail “bar”. So if you don’t have any of these ingredients, now is the time to get them!

    perfect3As for the vermouth, you can go with M&R or Dolin for sweet, but we prefer the bolder flavors of Cocchi Vermouth di Torino or Carpano Antica. As for dry vermouth, we strongly recommend Dolin and its smooth, herbal flavors.

    perfect5Finally, we suggest you garnish with good quality maraschino cherries, either homemade or Luxardo will do nicely. Nothing makes a Perfect Manhattan more perfect than a few cherries…

    The Perfectly Perfect Manhattan:


    • 2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
    • 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Cocchi)
    • 1/2 oz. dry vermouth (Dolin)
    • Angostura bitters
    • Regan’s Orange Bitters
    • Maraschino cherries, for garnish (Luxardo)


    1. Place all the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with 1 or 2 cherries. Serve.

  • The Cask-Strength Bourbon Old Fashioned

    ofA funny thing often happens when you “go deep” into a subject, you often find yourself back at the beginning. And that is certainly true when you get into cocktails. You may play with tiki, sours, endless Martini and Manhattan variants, molecular mixology, shims, cobblers, smashes, etc. But in the end, you will most likely find yourself a fan of the original cocktail; spirits, sugar, bitters and water. These days, most people call that drink an Old Fashioned.

    of3of4And even at its most basic, you can still play around with Old Fashioneds. They work with different spirits (beyond whiskey, aged rum or brandy Old Fashioneds are a delight), sweeteners and bitters, and experimentation will yield very tasty results. But the one area we suggest is going back even more to the source, and try using high-proof, “cask-strength” spirits. And we don’t mean “bonded” spirits at 100 proof (although they are great in cocktails) we mean the hard stuff, 110 proof -140 proof. Yup, serious booze.

    of5Now you may say, “whoa, that will be way to strong”. But part of the magic of cocktails is dilution with water; not enough- the drink is too hot, too much- the drink is watery and bland. But if you get it just right, the drink sings. And with cask-strength spirits, the drink not only sings, but changes in the glass as you slowly sip at your cocktail (and we do recommend a slow pace).

    of6of7of8Now purists may say that we should use rye instead of bourbon and that you shouldn’t add anything other than water to quality, cask-strength bourbon. And while we understand these arguments, we can say that we prefer bourbon (and there are more cask-strength options available) and that you need to try the Cask-Strength Bourbon Old-Fashioned before you judge it. This drink is true alchemy, always changing over time, but with deep caramel, wood, spice and balanced sweetness throughout. Just try it… Continue reading