A Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. While you may use any whiskey of your choice my personal preference is for Rye. The cocktail is usually stirred then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a Maraschino cherry. In a cocktail so simple the ingredients are of utmost importance.
212 is the area code for Manhattan, and also the recipe. 2 parts rye whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth and 2 dashes of angostura Bitters.
As far as Rye goes there are many great Ryes out there. Michters, Bulliet Rye, Sazerac Rye, even Basil Haydens; my personal go to is Old Overholt Rye. It was first recommended to me by Super Star bartender Amanda Reed. I had always kept OH around for years, but her recommendation only confirmed my own feelings.
Old Overholt, said to be America’s oldest continually maintained brand of whiskey, was founded in West Overton, Pennsylvania, in 1810. Henry Oberholzer (Anglicized to “Overholt”), a German Mennonite farmer, moved to West Overton, Pennsylvania, on the banks of Jacobs Creek in Western Pennsylvania in 1800. His family came from the area of Germany which specialized in distilling rye whiskey, and Henry took up the tradition. Since its founding Old Overholt fans have included everyone from Gunfighter and gambler Doc Holliday to Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant and U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a fan.
Whisky writer Jim Murray said “creamy nose…citrus notes…very hard rye…momentarily moist and sweet before going on to perfect the driest, crispest finish of its genre”. And that is what you want in a Manhattan, I find most Bourbons to be too sweet once you add the Vermouth.
It used to be that the standard was to have a great whiskey and simply threaten it with Vermouth. It used to be that the quality of vermouth available to bartenders was so low that many would just wave the bottle of vermouth and threaten the cocktail with it. Some would just do a rinse of vermouth or sometimes use an atomizer to mist the cocktail like it was perfume.
Today, we are in a vermouth (and Amaro) renaissance. There are literally hundreds of different vermouths on the market in a wide variety of sweetness levels and spice profiles. But I still love the Carpano Antica Formula. Antonio Benedetto Carpano is the individual traditionally credited, posthumously, with inventing what we know today as red Italian vermouth. The Carpano brand was formalized some years later by Carpano’s nephew. This distinctive and powerful aromatized wine should be considered a standard component in any respectable bar.
“Rich, fruity and enticing, this sweet vermouth is warmed with notes of fig and dried cherries, and just faint hints of spiced gingerbread and bitter orange peel. Drinkable solo as an apéritif, or use it as a cocktail-mixing favorite. (KN)” –95 points Wine Enthusiast
Bitters the traditional Angostura is fine. I like Scrappy’s Orange Bitters, the bit of orange is a nice complement to the sweet Vanilla in the Vermouth. But use what you like, Chocolate Bitters is cool and different.
And lastly don’t use cheap nasty Maraschino Cherries! Spend less on the whiskey and you have a budget to spend on good vermouth and real cherries!
The OG Maraschino cherries, called Luxardo cherries. Before it became known for its preserved cherries, Luxardo was a distillery on the coast of what was once an Italian province, but is now modern-day Croatia. Founded in 1821 by Girolamo Luxardo, an Italian consul in that region, the company made its name with a cherry liqueur called Maraschino, which Girolamo based on a medieval spirit. The liqueur was made from sour Marasca cherries and made by distilling the fruit’s leaves, stems, pits, and skins. It’s those pits, by the way, that give the liqueur its characteristic nutty background flavor, which is often mistaken for almonds. They are in the same family, drupes. In 1905, the distillery started selling cherries candied in a syrup of Marasca cherry juice and sugar, thus creating the original Maraschino cherry.
The OG Manhattan
2 ounce Old Overholt Rye
1 ounce Carpano Antica Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters (or Orange Bitters)
1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
1 cup Ice cubes
Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail mixing Pint glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.