Manhattan Story: a first taste
My first Manhattan was a lark. I ordered it at the now-defunct Paradise Cafe in Lawrence, way back in 1991, because I didn’t want a girly drink, and my husband assured me a Manhattan was anything but girly. He was right. Made with rye whiskey, it was all muscle, with just enough sweet vermouth and bitters to round it out. I was smitten.
I tracked down a recipe, then went in search for rye. I bought a bottle of Jim Beam’s at the Red X in Riverside, along with whatever sweet vermouth was on the shelf, Angostura bitters and a jar of neon red cherries. Manhattans, done.
That recipe, culled from a battered bartending paperback long since discarded in a fit of high-minded pique, served me well. But it did have one essential flaw, as it turns out. The directions dictated shaking, a no-no according to Robert Hess. Shaking creates a frothier drink and imparts a less-than-appealing look and texture, Hess says while demonstrating the difference in this Small Screen Network clip.
That said, there really is no “wrong” way to make a Manhattan. I’ve had some made with cheap well spirits and others with artisanal, hand-crafted elixirs. They’ve been made with rye and bourbon, fancy vermouths and house-infused cherries. They’ve come on the rocks, shaken and stirred, in cocktail glasses and in plastic cups. The Manhattan’s essential character remains the same, and, if you like it, that’s all that counts.
Perhaps you have a favorite recipe? By all means share, and I’ll put yours up on the blog, too. In the meantime, here’s that version from Robert Hess: Pour 1-1/2 ounces rye whiskey, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth and 2 dashes Angostura bitters into a mixing glass. Fill glass partway with ice. Stir until all ingredients are well-chilled (about 30 seconds), and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.