“Rye manhattan, up.”
History suggests that the manhattan originated at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s, where it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall. That’s right… a doctor. That practically makes this cocktail recipe a medically endorsed remedy to all of life’s problems. Its greatness lies in its perfect balance between silky smooth and fiery bite. It is the king of all cocktails.
There’s no shortage of good reading on the manhattan, but most articles are written by people trying to impress you with their complex palette and esoteric lexicon. This is a more practical guide.
Ordering a manhattan is pretty easy. Just ask for a, “rye manhattan, up.” That’s it. You want it up so they will serve it in a cocktail glass. You want them to use rye whiskey because it’s the traditional whiskey to use, and because very few bars carry bottom-shelf rye whiskey. So you’re going to get a pretty good quality whiskey, even if you don’t know the difference between Jim Beam and Sazerac.
If the server asks you what kind of rye you want, tell them, “nothing special, do you have Bulleit or Templeton?” I recommend one of these two because they are good quality rye whiskeys that work well in a cocktail, yet are unlikely to break the bank. Higher-end whiskey than this is wasted on a cocktail.
There is a decent chance your bar may not have rye. No problem, go to another bar. If that’s not an option, bourbon manhattans are also very tasty. My top choice for bourbon in a manhattan is Buffalo Trace. This whiskey has a smooth vanilla flavor that tastes great in a manhattan. In a pinch, Makers Mark is very common and works well.
While the manhattan is a great cocktail to order, it’s an even better cocktail to make at home. There’s only a couple ingredients, so it’s pretty easy to get it right. Here’s my
recommendation prescription for a proper, homemade manhattan:
2 ounces MGPI* rye whisky
1 ounce Galo sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3 Luxardo cherries
Put the rye, vermouth, and bitters in a big glass; half-full of ice. Stir it with a cocktail spoon (or a butter knife) for a solid 30-45 seconds. Try to stir it around the edge of the glass so the ice doesn’t grind together too much. You can shake it in a shaker, but it will make your drink a little cloudy. Pour your drink though a strainer (or your fingers) into another glass and discard the ice. A chilled, cocktail glass is best, but a regular highball glass works just fine. Heck, I’d use a Dixie cup if I had to. Add the luxardos and you’re set.
*If you didn’t read though all the instructions first, you might be scouring the liquor store looking for MGPI rye. You’re not going to find it. MGPI supplies a bunch of other companies with rye whiskey. They all taste great, but they all pretty much taste the same. Buy the cheapest one of the following brands:
High West Rye
George Dickel Rye (Probably this one)
There’s plenty of other great ryes. But these are common, somewhat affordable and work great in cocktails.
There’s a lot of debate as to the best vermouth and bitters to use. Go ahead and experiment if you want. Galo and Angostura are on the list because they are easy to find, and just work.
Now sit back and enjoy. Cheers, and happy new year!