Manhattan Perfect

If you asked us what our "house cocktail" is, the answer would be our version of the Manhattan. The Manhattan is a cocktail that's been around for a long time - for good reason. One of the legends of it's origin states that it was invented at New York's Manhattan Club around 1880. According to a 1916 history of the club: “The Celebrated Manhattan Cocktail was inaugurated at the Club. This consists of equal portions of vermouth and whiskey, with a dash of orange bitters.” There are others who lay claim to the Manhattan's birth, but the only thing that is clear is that it originated in New York City.

Most people make a Manhattan with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. We are happy with the classic version, but over the years we tinkered with the recipe and came up with one that is similar to the "Perfect Manhattan". Our version uses bourbon, sweet vermouth, and blanc vermouth (not dry vermouth). We also use more vermouth (in total) than what's used in a typical Manhattan today (but what's in keeping with the Manhattan Club recipe), so it's very important to use good vermouth. For the sweet vermouth our choice is Carpano Antica Formula. This is an Italian vermouth created from a recipe that dates back to 1786. It has notes of vanilla, spice, and dried fruits. A footnote here about vermouth - it's fortified wine so after you open the bottle it's best to keep it well-sealed and refrigerated. If you don't use vermouth often, you should consider purchasing it in small (750 ml) bottles.

Blanc vermouth is colorless (like dry vermouth), but it's sweet and herbal. Dolin, made in France, is the original blanc vermouth. There are Italian "bianco" vermouths that tend to have stronger vanilla notes than French Chambery blanc. Since the Carpano Antica is pretty vanilla forward, we think the combination of the French blanc and the Italian sweet vermouths is what make this cocktail "perfect"... well, along with a very good bourbon. There's a NY Times article about the growing popularity of blanc vermouth if you want to read more.

You can mix up a wonderful Manhattan using a nice bourbon, or for those who can wait, you can use something more commercially available (like Maker's Mark) and barrel age a batch of Manhattans. If you've read our Autumn on 44th Street and Brooklyn blog posts you've seen us mention our mini barrel - which we originally purchased from Deep South Barrels during a trip to the Minnesota State Fair several years ago. Aging a batch of cocktails in this little barrel (for 6-8 weeks) makes for one of the smoothest drinks you will ever taste. It's also nice to have a batch ready for a party - which allows you to mingle with your guests instead of standing at the bar shaking cocktails.

The Manhattan has never gone out of style. It has inspired many spin-offs (including our previous post the Jamaica Bay cocktail). The borough of Manhattan has been an inspiration for countless works of art, and the Cocktail Artist has done a lot of sketching there over the years - including some drawings and paintings completed with a cocktail in hand!


Manhattan Perfect

2 ounces Bourbon
1 ounce Sweet Vermouth
1 ounce Blanc Vermouth
Dash of Aromatic Bitters
Dash of Cherry Bitters

Shake all ingredients briefly with ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Stain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Barrel aged Manhattan and the ingredients

Manhattan Skyline - original watercolor painting by The Cocktail Artist

Manhattan Rooftop - original watercolor and crayon sketch by The Cocktail Artist

Cocktail Artist watercolor sketch of rabbit from the wallpaper in Bemelmans Bar, New York
(Note: Bemelmans Bar, in the Carlyle Hotel, is one of our favorite places to enjoy a cocktail in Manhattan)

Cocktail Artist watercolor and pencil sketch of Bow Bridge in Central Park

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