Tag Archives: rye whiskey

Cocktail of the Hour — the Manhattan

manhattan drink 2After researching a lot of cocktails with contentious origins, it comes as no surprise that the ever-popular Manhattan has many origin legends. The drink was definitely a bar staple by the 1860s, but the details of where and when it was created are largely lost to history. One of the most interesting stories was that it was invented for a party thrown by Winston Churchill’s mother at the Manhattan Club. Unfortunately, the historical record indicates that she was across the pond giving birth during the time of this party.

Other sources give credit to a bartender named Black who worked in another bar in Manhattan. If this was the case, it’s likely that this libation was created to be one of the five cocktails named for New York City’s five main boroughs. Despite its lack of historical figures, this tale is likely the most true.

Interestingly, putting together an original Manhattan is almost as  impossible as piecing together its backstory. The oldest recorded recipe calls for a few dashes of Boker’s bitters in equal parts rye whiskey and sweet vermouth. A few decades ago, the original Boker’s bitters went out of production, so unless you’re willing to shell out some serious cash for a vintage bottle, you’re unlikely to ever taste the most historic Manhattan.

As well, modern palates (and bartenders) favor spirit-heavy drinks over vermouth-heavy drinks. As a result, the most popular recipe for a Manhattan calls for a 2:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth. Thanks to a few marketing campaigns featuring the Manhattan, bourbon has largely eclipsed rye in common recipes. Though this substitution doesn’t affect the presentation, it gives the drink a much smoother, sweeter taste overall than a rye Manhattan.

manhattan spread 4The rye Manhattan is a dark, slightly sweet cocktail with a hint of spice from the whiskey. An orange peel garnish adds a citrusy nose that compliments the wine and dark fruit of the first sip. Garnishing with a maraschino cherry, by contrast, adds a very sweet finish to a sweet, but balanced drink. Though the origins of this practice are unclear, written records would seem to indicate that the orange peel garnish came first.

Choosing complimentary vermouths and whiskeys is one of the biggest parts of making a delicious Manhattan. For example, a more bitter vermouth like Punt e Mes won’t necessarily compliment either the boldness of Rittenhouse rye or a smooth bourbon. However, a more rounded, earthier vermouth like Cocchi Vermouth di Turino or Carpano Antica Formula can bring out the best qualities in either liquor.

Since no two people have the exact same taste preferences, experimentation is the best way to find our your favorite drink recipes. Try out different combinations and see what works for you.

Recipe:
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Heering cherry liqueur
1 oz sweet vermouth

2 oz rye whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until well incorporated. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel or maraschino cherry depending on your preference.

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Cocktail of the hour — the Sazerac

Thanks, Angel!

Thanks, Angel!

Do you regularly pronounce New Orleans as “nawlins?” Would you rather chug a Jaeger Bomb than sip an Old Fashioned? If you’ve answered yes to the second question, the Sazerac may not be the drink for you. If you said yes to the first, you might need to befriend some actual New Orleans natives. Either way, if you’re feeling adventurous or like whiskey at all, give it a chance — you might be surprised.

As another descendent of the 18th century cocktail (liquor, sugar, bitters and maybe a splash of water), this variation adds in a few elements that will please drink nerds: a cool history and boldly flavored, relatively hard to find ingredients.

Though the  first written recipe for the Sazerac wasn’t printed until the early 1900s, the history of the drink itself starts around 1850. At that point, Sewell T. Taylor gave up his bar and went into the liquor import business. One of his products was Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Aaron Bird, the man who bought Taylor’s bar, renamed it the Sazerac House. Their specialty was the Sazerac Cocktail, a brandy-based drink made with Taylor’s brandy and (supposedly) bitters made by the neighborhood apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud.

Since then, the Sazerac House was bought and sold many times. At some point during Thomas Handy’s ownership, he either wrote down the Sazerac recipe or shared it with someone. In any case, it ended up in the 1908 edition of The World’s Drinks and How To Mix Them — with one change: this cocktail called for “good whiskey,” not Sazerac cognac.

During that time, Europe’s grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River to the Mississippi.

However the change happened, the spice of the rye compliments the bitters beautifully. Using just a touch of absinthe to rinse the glass gives the drink an herbal nose, and finishing the drink with a lemon peel adds depth and a light, citrusy note.

Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters*

.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)

2 oz good rye whiskey (don’t skimp — use the good stuff)

lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients except the lemon peel over ice in a mixing glass. Stir well to combine. Roll a few drops of absinthe around in a chilled rocks glass to rinse, and strain the mixture into the rinsed glass. Garnish with a lemon peel and enjoy.

*Angostura bitters aren’t part of the original recipe, but they’re a traditional ingredient.

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