#100DaysOfCocktails - Day 3 - The Manhattan

Day three was going to be a Martinez, until I started diving deeper into the history of it. That cocktail had an ancestor, and that ancestor was the Manhattan. I have yet to find any cocktail writer or mixologist that does not think this is a basic building block of any professional's repertoire. So day three I explored this glorious cocktail and its place as one of the luminaries of the realm. 

Most legends point out the cocktail was invented in the 1880's, but where it was invented is a matter of opinion. The overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence indicates it was invented at the Manhattan Club in 1874 by Winston Churchill's mother during a presidential fundraiser. Cocktail historian David Wondrich, in his award-winning book Imbibe! points out the inconvenient fact she was in England at the time, which punches a significant hole in the story. Wondrich also notes that a man named Black is referenced by some contemporaries as the actual inventor of the drink in the Manhattan Inn, several blocks from the Manhattan Club. Whichever story is true, they created a masterpiece. Many cocktails, like the Martini and Daiquiri, mimic the exact same proportions with their ingredients. The decades have changed the proportions of the cocktail, but not the delight in drinking.

The modern version of the cocktail is often a 2:1 ratio of whiskey (usually rye) and sweet vermouth, with bitters and a cherry garnish. In some of the original recipes, you can find other ingredients like absinthe, gum syrup, maraschino liqueur, and a variety of bitters. Rye is considered to be the historically accurate choice, since it was more popular and available on the east coast. Sweet vermouth was readily accessible as well, with dry vermouth not invading until much later. The sweet vermouth marries well with the rye, offering a delightful balance. The original Manhattan club recipe, which is not the standard but the inspiration, has a little different balance.

The Manhattan

The Manhattan (via David Wondrich)

Source: Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition, p. 257

1.5 oz./45 mL whiskey (I used Bulleit bourbon, which has a high rye content)
1.5 oz. /45 mL sweet vermouth
.5 tsp. gum syrup
3-4 dashes of orange bitters
Glass: Cocktail or Old Fashioned
Garnish: Cherries (optional)
Ice: Small Cubes (optional)

Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing tin over ice. Stir until the drink is cold, then strain into your chosen glass. If you are enjoying out of an Old Fashioned glass, add ice if yo'd like.

This is a much richer drink that I am used to enjoying, or making. The gum syrup adds a heavier mouth feel and sweetness, and the extra vermouth adds layers of flavor and a little extra sweetness. I can easily see why rye is what is generally used in this cocktail; it provides a spicy balance to the sweet elements. Peruvian bitters are called for in the original recipe, but I did not have them so I went with a common element I saw in other recipes. This may change how I drink my Manhattans. I have always liked my Martini in more of a 50/50 balance; this just makes sense. 

Brian Petro

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