January, 2015. New York, New York.
“It’s so damn cold out,” you say, looking down at the snow-filled streets from your apartment window after a long day at the office. “What do I need?”
You think for a second or two, but the answer comes quickly.
A smile on your face, you go to the liquor cabinet. Looking inside, you see rye whiskey, angostura bitters, sweet vermouth. The gang’s all here, you’re good to go.
It’s Manhattan time.
One part vermouth to two parts whiskey (traditionally rye, though some use bourbon) with a dash of angostura bitters, an ice cold Manhattan on an ice cold night sipped by a roaring, Netflix-generated fire is the perfect, easy-to-make fortification against the winter chill. Whether you’re getting ready to brave the weather to meet some friends; hanging solo-dolo at the apartment binge watching TV; or making a large batch to serve guests coming over to play Scrabble, the Manhattan means comfort and good times.
Historically, it’s always been that way. The Manhattan was invented in 1875 by Lord Manhattan in Edinburgh, Scotland. As the story goes, Lord Manhattan was, much like you, dear reader, looking out his window on a cold night, desperate for something to warm and cheer him. He rummaged through his liquor cabinet and decided to mix whiskey with vermouth. Tasting the drink Lord Manhattan said, “Yes, it’s good, but something is missing.” That’s when his son, the future Lord Manhattan, pulled at his father’s cloak and said, “How about adding some bitters, father?” Impressed by his son’s inventiveness, Lord Manhattan added the bitters. He tasted it and his eyes grew wide with satisfaction: the drink was astonishing.*
And therein lies the beauty of the Manhattan: so simple, even a kid could make it. All you need is a cocktail shaker, whiskey, vermouth, bitters and a maraschino cherry for garnish (maraschino cherry is to the Manhattan as olive is to the martini) – and boom! You’ve got a classic cocktail that’s guaranteed to kick-start your night. No mixology class needed. Plus, it’s inexpensive: for about $60 (using Canadian Club, a fine, moderately priced whiskey) you can whip up a helluva lot of Manhattans – beats paying $14 for one at a bar or restaurant, eh? And what’s more, the ingredients that make up a Manhattan are a great starting point from which to move on to other more complicated cocktails.
But note, dear reader! You can’t just serve a Manhattan in any old glass. No no no, that won’t do. Personally, since the drink is so simple, I like to serve my Manhattans in one of two ways: in a simple, classic cocktail glass to further reflect that beauty of the drink’s simplicity, or, if I am feeling saucy, in a TOTALLY QUIRKY cocktail glass – possibly these crystal cocktail chalices my grandmother bought back in the 1970s. Sure, they may be a bit gaudy, they might not be haute cuisine de foodie, but just as I imagine Lord Manhattan might have, I say, “let’s get crazy, baby!” (Added benefit: nothing gets conversation rolling at a party like interesting glassware, even one that looks like your grandmother bought it.)
The only thing that I insist upon is using a glass that has a STEM. The whole point of the stem is that you grab the glass by it so that you don’t warm the drink. By using the stem, your drink remains COLD. Novel, I know.
So check out the Manhattan recipe below, and make sure to look out for classic vintage glassware on Krrb.com. If you’re throwing a party or just like to sip in style, nothing beats a well-made cocktail in a vintage glass.
– 2 ounces rye whisky
– 1 ounce sweet vermouth
– 2 dashes Angostura bitters
– 1 maraschino cherry
Put it all in a shaker with ice and stir it with a bar spoon, 15-30 times clockwise then another 15-30 times counter-clockwise. You can shake it, but then you’ll get little pieces of ice floating at the top (which some people love) and you’ll bruise the alcohol, that is, you’ll damage the alcohol’s purity. Not a big deal though; shaking can be fun.
*I made all that up. The Manhattan was actually invented in Manhattan during the 1870s by Dr. Iain Marshall, but you can just look that up on Wikipedia, ya know?