How to make the perfect Manhattan [RECIPE]

The Manhattan

The Manhattan

It's a drink as classic as the Big Apple skyline and as seductive as Don Draper. When made properly, the Manhattan, a mix of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, is a delightful balance of powerful spirit, a blush of sweetness, and an invigorating smack of herbal bitterness. 

Although popular belief suggests that this cocktail was first created at the Manhattan Supper Club in the 1870s, it's possible that it dates back even further. It's also one of the few drinks that sailed through Prohibition and came through repeal tasting just as good as it ever had. Again, we bellied up to the bar with drink mix master Shawn Jones of Parlour to discuss the classic, the twists on the classic, and whiskey.

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"First of all, Manhattans are one of my favorite drinks. My parents used to drink them with Southern Comfort... It was the 80's," shrugs Jones. "It's a sister cocktail to the martini -- the retro, classic cocktails." 

The traditional mixture is two parts spirit, 1 part vermouth. "At home I like to use Old Grandad 114 bourbon and Jim Beam Rye for the whiskey. Most think a Manhattan needs to be bourbon, but I've really been enjoying pairing it with rye. Then you'll want to stir it just a little longer and use a higher proof spirit. Proof is flavor."

For the bitters, there are several varieties on the market and more seem to pop up almost daily. Traditionally, there was no better option than Angostura. "I'm a big fan of Angostura," says Jones, "but the Bittercube Cherry Bark bitters are the bitters that the Manhattan has been waiting for all these years." Bittercube's line is available at fine liquor stores locally. They retail for about $8 a bottle and are worth seeking out.

Behind the bar at Parlour and Borough, Jones and his compatriots are currently serving a fall version of the Manhattan, which utilizes some spirits relatively new to the scene. Root is part of a series of flavors created by a company called Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The man behind the scenes is Steven Grasse, a marketing mastermind and interesting character, who is also the creator of Hendrick's gin and Sailor Jerry's spiced rum. Root harnesses all those wild flavors familiar to fans of root beer. The flavors are extracted from natural elements like birch bark, cinnamon, anise, orange, and wintergreen and then steeped together. Jones has been enjoying playing around with those herbaceous qualities in several cocktails, including his mixologist's take on the classic Manhattan. So without further ado...

Classic Manhattan
1 oz Bulliet Rye
1 oz Old Grandad 114
1 oz sweet Italian Vermouth
1 dropper Bittercube Cherry Bark Bitters (or Angostura)

Pour over ice in a low glass, stir vigorously. Garnish with two brandied cherries.

Autumn Manhattan
1 oz Bulliet Rye
1 oz Old Grandad 114
1/4 oz Licor 43
1/4 oz Amaro
1/4 oz Punt e Mes
1/4 oz Root
2 drops Bittercube Bolivar bitters
2 drops Cherry Bark bitters
1 Brandied cherry
Orange peel for garnish

Pour Rye through Bolivar bitters over ice. Stir vigorously. Strain into a v-glass (commonly called a martini glass). Finish with Cherry Bark Bitters. Express the orange peel over the glass. Drop in the cherry and serve.

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