Today we’re stirring up a winter warmer taken from Alice Lascelles’ new book The Cocktail Edit. It’s the Rusty Manhattan.
For me, cocktail books fall into two categories, those written by writers and those by bartenders. The latter are usually more fun to read but the advantage of the latter is that you know every recipe has been honed by hours behind the bar. Not always the case with some authors.
The only cocktail book you’ll ever need
A new cocktail book has landed on my desk which combines the best of both worlds. In fact, it might be the Only Cocktail Book You’ll Ever Need (or OCBYEN for short.) It’s called The Cocktail Edit by Alice Lascelles. Lascelles is a writer – you might know her from her column in the FT – but I get the impression she spends a lot of time with bartenders, and not just as a customer. She has a professional’s eye for what works.
The Cocktail Edit gets its name because it distills the thousands of recipes out there into 12 classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and Martini. So for example, a French 75 is in the Gin Sour section as it’s essentially a Sour diluted with Champagne. The book is full of useful little tips such as how to adjust flavour in a cocktail if it doesn’t taste right as well as a short guide to stocking your bar. Reassuringly, there’s nothing obscure in this section, just trusted affordable brands like Woodford Reserve Bourbon or Martini Rosso vermouth. In your face Tucci!
The ten cocktail commandments
Lascelles has a knack for making information stick, like her order for when to do things that starts with “put the glass in the freezer.” At one point, she distils everything down to ten cocktail commandments which I’m going to cut out and put over my drinks cabinet:
- A good glass is a cold glass: always freeze or chill your glassware
- Measure ingredients accurately (at least until you’ve familiarised yourself with the recipe)
- Ensure lemon and lime juice is always freshly squeezed
- Keep mixers and sparkling wine fizzy and well chilled
- If in doubt use more ice – allow at least five cubes per drink
- Shake really hard; stir steadily and slowly
- Taste and dilute, if necessary – and always have a little extra of your ingredients on hand in case you need to tweak
- Presentation is important – don’t skip the garnish
- It’s better to do a simple recipe brilliantly than a complicated one poorly
- Never put the ice tray back in the freezer without refilling it first
How to make a Rusty Manhattan
This is the book I wish I’d been given when I started clumsily trying to make cocktails at home. But even though I’m now an experienced drinks bore, reading The Cocktail Edit made me want to go into the back of the cupboard and make something I’d never tried before. Like this week’s cocktail, the Rusty Manhattan. I normally find a Rusty Nail too sweet but by combining it with a Manhattan, Lascelles has come up with something both comforting and invigorating. Perfect for a cold, rainy Sunday night.
She writes: “This Manhattan twist is a tribute to the Rusty Nail… Drambuie liqueur, which is made from a blend of Scotch, honey botanicals, gives it a spicy, slightly aniseedy edge. A rich warming cocktail that’s best sipped after dinner, or on a winter’s night.” I used rye whiskey but I think this would be excellent with a smoky blend like Johnnie Walker Black Label.
Here’s how to make a Rusty Manhattan and do buy a copy of The Cocktail Edit. It really is the OCBYEN.
Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker and stir until very cold. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
The Cocktail Edit by Alice Lascelles (Quadrille, £16.99); photography: Laura Edwards.