Rye whiskey is either a favorite of those who imbibe or a spirit that gets a bad rap for being the drink cowboys knocked back after a long day out. But when used as a base spirit for a cocktail, rye is transformed into something magical, and that is most present in the classic Manhattan.
The origin of the Manhattan isn’t exactly known as it was widely claimed that the Manhattan Club of New York created it in the 1870s as a drink for Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of Winston Churchill. However, that retelling of the story has been debunked many times over. There are other accounts that a bartender named Black invented the drink in the 1860s, which largely called for two parts of whiskey, one part of Italian vermouth and aromatic bitters.
In other accounts, many say the drink most likely originated in the 1880s, but the names of the bartenders who had input in crafting the cocktail have been lost over time. Most historians agree that the Manhattan cocktail as we know it today has undergone tweaks and variations. Still, the basic combination of the two and one blends of whiskey and vermouth has lent itself to the drink’s spirit-forward version we enjoy today.
I’ve had the Manhattan with both bourbon and rye, and I can clearly state my preference for the cocktail is to use rye for its spicier bite. Bourbon will render the drink sweeter yet sippable, but if that spirit is used, I’d recommend a high-proof bottle. No matter which spirit base is used, the drink does not work without the bitters and the proper garnish.
For my version, I used Redemption Rye and Dolin Rouge. I must add that if you want to take this drink to the next level, invest in some Luxardo maraschino cherries. Well worth the splurge.
2 oz rye whiskey (bourbon or Canadian whiskey can also be used)
1 oz sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Luxardo cherry for garnish
Combine the whiskey and vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir for 10-15 seconds until chilled. With a strainer, pour the chilled drink into a pre-chilled cocktail glass, either an old fashioned or couple glass, and then drop in a Luxardo cherry or two. To pre-chill your glass, fill it with ice and then water to the rim while you craft the drink. Toss the water and ice when it’s time to pour the cocktail.
Some fans of the Manhattan say the drink goes best with a high-quality cigar or even with a hearty dinner. It’s also a perfect nightcap drink as the bite of the drink will move one to take their time in consuming the beverage. A single should be enough, but two could deliver a knockout blow if you’re not careful.
As always, sip safely, friends.
Photo: D.L. Chandler