Today’s we’re looking at a cocktail named after the most famous island in the world. It could only be… the Isle of Man! Oh no, hang on, it’s the Manhattan.
Whenever I’m making a Manhattan, which is often, I find myself involuntarily singing ‘Shattered’ by the Rolling Stones. It’s the closing track on their 1978 album Some Girls. On this record, perhaps their sleaziest and an ode to the highs and lows of New York City, the Stones not only embrace disco with the song ‘Miss You’ but on ‘Shattered’ Mick sort of raps and, surprisingly, it’s totally brilliant. It’s the lines, “my brain’s been battered/ splattered all over Manhattan”, I sing to myself as I cheerfully mix my drink.
From the ultimate song about New York (don’t @ me), to the ultimate Gotham cocktail. As the Martini is to gin, so the Manhattan is to whiskey, spirit flavoured with vermouth. But as Americans were drinking whiskey before gin, you could argue that the Martini is simply a gin Manhattan.
The Manhattan has it origins in the mid-19th century when vermouth became all the rage. In fact, it was drinks like the Manhattan that made the original cocktail, the Old Fashioned, seem, well a bit, old fashioned (see article on the origins of the Old Fashioned.) So you could call a Manhattan a New Fashioned, though probably don’t try this next time you’re in New York or people will think you’re a bit of a dick.
The original Manhattan would have been made with rye whiskey rather than bourbon. Once rye was hard to get hold of, especially in Britain, but in recent years it has undergone something of a renaissance and we are now spoiled for choice. I’m using Michter’s because it’s absolutely delicious, totally over delivering on spice and depth of flavour for the money. If you’re using bourbon, find one with a high rye content like Four Roses Small Batch.
Like the Martini, the Manhattan has gradually become drier since its invention. Early recipes call for equal parts vermouth to whiskey as well as a sugar syrup. You can make your Manhattan ‘perfect’ by using half French and half Italian vermouth. Or ‘dry’ by using just French. To make a smoky Manhattan try rinsing the glass with a drop or two of Islay whisky before adding the bourbon and vermouth (if you go all the way and substitute the American whiskey for Scotch, then your Manhattan becomes a Rob Roy).
The next big question is whether to shake or stir. I am firmly in the stirring camp but, unlike in a Martini, I think a little dilution isn’t such a bad thing here so you don’t need to use cold whiskey or vermouth. Oh, and a Maraschino cherry is a nice touch if you have them.
Right, got your ingredients ready? Some Girls cued up? Then take it away Mick, “go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots.”
Stir ingredients with lots of ice in a shaker and strain into a cold Martini glass (you can use a coupe or a Nick & Nora instead). Express a piece of orange zest over and drop into the glass. Add a cherry if you’re feeling hungry.