The Manhattan Cocktail
Back to basics. Liquor, sweetener, bitters. That’s the cocktail in its simplest form. So simple, yet so misunderstood. The Manhattan has suffered a similar fate to the Martini over the years: people can’t stop fiddling with it until they present you something as far removed from the original as Pink Floyd is to Mozart.
The original New York libation was invented sometime in the 1880s as vermouth started to be noticed by the professional barmen. Instead of simply adding some sugar and bitters to your whiskey cocktail, why not spice it up a bit more with this new stuff from Italy. Hell, we can add it to our gin cocktails as well, but that is another story.
The Manhattan (modern version)
2 oz Whiskey
¾ to 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir with ice until cold and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a cherry or a lemon twist if desired.
In the north-east, rye is the preferred whiskey, but bourbon will also work just fine. If you decide to go with 100 proof whiskey, use equal parts of whiskey and vermouth as prescribed by the earliest recipes. It wasn’t long before bartenders, as is their wont, started adding a dash of this or that to the basic recipe. For an 1890s version, add a dash of absinthe, or a little (¼ tsp) maraschino liqueur, or both. Today, most people seem to like their Manhattans unadulterated, and that is a fine thing, but the additional absinthe and Maraschino make a very nice variation.
Ratio of whiskey to vermouth can be adjusted depending on what brands you use and, of course, on personal taste. For a “Perfect Manhattan” use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.
The beauty of the Manhattan is that, made properly, it would still be easily recognized by any bartender who was working a hundred years ago. So sit back with your Manhattan and ponder the wonders that were the electric light, the telephone, and the automobile.