Most people today have some familiarity with the AMC television series Madmen and the Manhattans drunk on that show all of the time. It is a very hip cocktail to serve at your next cocktail party.
The Manhattan’s evolutionary path is parallel to that of the Martini’s. It has the same kind of simplicity as a Martini but its flavors are much more complex. Like the Martini, it is also made with vermouth, but unlike the Martini, bitters play an important part in the recipe.
According to renowned cocktail aficionado Robert Hess, “Making a Manhattan without bitters is like making a soup without salt.”
The Manhattan is an antique cocktail. It was invented in the 1870’s at New York’s Manhattan Club from which it gets its name. Originally the Manhattan was made with Rye. Today it is more commonly made with bourbon.
Unfortunately, we will never taste the Manhattan that was enjoyed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. This is because the bitters of choice to make a Manhattan were Abbott’s bitters that are no longer manufactured. Angostura bitters works fine, or you could try Fee’s Aromatic Bitters or you could try to chase down a sixty year old bottle of Abbott’s.
While the Maraschino Cherry is the common garnish used in a Manhattan, it was not the original garnish. It was traditionally garnished with a fresh or pickled cherry. A popular garnish for martinis in those days was Queen Ann cherries that had been soaking in a fine brandy or whiskey. spirits of some sort.
Keep in mind too that it is important to use fresh Vermouth. Vermouth is a wine and it can go off out of time. Make sure you use at least a four to one ratio of Vermouth or it will not taste right. This is not like a martini where the vermouth is just grazing the flavor of the drink. Vermouth is a full component of the recipe in this case.
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with a fresh, pickled or maraschino cherry. Do not spill syrup from the cherry jar into the glass; this is a tacky tradition that makes the drink too sweet.
To make sure the drink is perfect make sure that you never ever shake a Manhattan.. This is a drink that is better stirred and not shaken.