My new shaker has finally arrived and to celebrate I’ve whipped up my all time favourite cocktail (albeit one that shouldn’t be shaken!)
The Manhattan has everything I want in a cocktail. I’m not a fan of long, icy drinks, I like the ones that come in tiny glasses and have to be sipped in a terribly civilised fashion. I want them to be bitter and strong, preferably with a hint of something zesty and a hip flask that you’re permitted to take home.
I also love simplicity. A Manhattan has just 4 ingredients; bourbon (or rye whiskey, if you prefer), vermouth, bitters (angostura if you’re after authenticity) and some kind of garnish. There are, however, variations within those ingredients that you can experiment with until you find your perfect blend.
I like to use a good, sweet, red vermouth resulting in a ‘sweet’ Manhattan, if you use dry, white vermouth you’ll end up with a ‘dry’ Manhattan (which I find a little too bitter for me) and if you go for half and half it’s known as a ‘perfect’ Manhattan. If you use those terms in a decent cocktail bar they’ll know what you’re talking about, I promise!
As far as garnish goes there are 2 authentic options, lemon zest or a maraschino cherry. Whilst I love a maraschino cherry, it’s tough to find a decent jar of them in the shops (i.e. those soaked in maraschino liqueur) and besides, I’m very partial to a bit of orange zest, so forget authenticity!
It was a barman in the fabulous Worship Street Whistling Shop who first showed me the proper way to mix a Manhattan.
He told me that if you shake it, you risk bruising the bourbon and diluting the flavour with ice chips. It’ll also leave a nasty film on top of the drink and make it cloudy and unappealing. So get your stirring chopstick out! (Admittedly the barman didn’t recommend using a chopstick to stir your cocktail but sadly I don’t have a bar spoon.)
Whilst making this drink I discovered how difficult it is to cut a strip of orange zest without leaving a load of white pith on it. Soooo many attempts before I got it right!
Plus I couldn’t decide which picture of zest I liked best, so you get 2!
I usually like my Manhattan served in a vintage coupe, I’m pretentious like that, but since I don’t have one I went with a fabulous, 1950s sherry glass that belonged to my Nan.
I have a set of these glasses in 3 different sizes, but I suspect they were never used by my Nan, she wasn’t a big drinker. Apparently she used to have the occasional snifter, once every few years, that left her rather giggly, but sadly I never got to witness it.
Go on, give this cocktail a whirl and pretend you’re in Mad Men. You know you want to.
A Classic Manhattan
2 measures of bourbon
1 measure of sweet vermouth
3 big splashes of angostura bitters
Chill your cocktail glass in the freezer until nice and frosty.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the bourbon, vermouth and bitters. With a bar spoon (or a chopstick!) smoothly stir the ice around the glass for about 30 second.
Leave to stand for a further 30 seconds and then gently stir again. Strain the cocktail into the chilled glass. To do this I just popped the top on my shaker, but if you have cocktail strainer, use that.
Cut a strip of orange zest, ensuring that there is minimal white pith on the back of the skin. Over the top of the cocktail glass, hold the zest skin side down and crack it in half lengthways, this creates a film of gorgeous orange oil on the top of the drink.
Relax and enjoy, Mr Draper!