The Art Of The Cocktail Part Six: The Manhattan

New York City is the Mesopotamia of cocktail culture in that many of the great manuals have been penned here, and the lions of the bartending industry have strode through the smoke-filled venues of the city for well over a century.

So it makes sense that the Manhattan would have its roots here. The origin narrative of the drink has many branches with the most likely sounding {at least to my ears} being: “The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black who kept a place 10 doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the (eighteen) sixties – probably the most famous drink in the world in its time,” thus wrote William F. Mulhall in the 1923 “Valentine’s Manual Of New York.”

Mulhall was a bartender of that era, working at the Hoffman House, and this is one of the earliest, most credible seeming citations. After all, if you can’t trust your bartender who can you trust?

The ingredients in a Manhattan are simple: Whiskey, vermouth and bitters. So simple that anybody can make one, so why are so many bordering on undrinkable.

I’ve seen bartenders throw everything in a shaker and give the old gal a good vigorous pummeling; I’ve seen bone dry vermouth pulled off the bench for an impromptu substitution of the proper sweet and I’ve seen other unmentionable chicaneries perpetrated on the poor beleaguered Manhattan.

Here now is my favorite rendition of the classic. Taught to me by Sonny, a portly, redheaded Irishman at my very first bartending job; the Parliament House in Birmingham, Alabama {Built in 1964 by Doris Day!}


2 oz Whiskey, I like Bulleit 95

1 oz Vermouth, I like Noilly Pratt {sweet}

4 Drops Bitters, Angostura {subbing for my normal favorite Peychaud’s}


* Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with cracked ice

* Stir for perhaps 30 seconds

* Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

* Serve with a lemon twist, although many people enjoy a Maraschino cherry


You can alter the recipe above by substituting Scotch and you’ll have yourself a Rob Roy

You can alter the recipe above by substituting Irish Whiskey to create a Paddy Cocktail







About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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