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View Full Version : Old Potrero, the Manhattan, and some random thoughts.



Eagle
01-08-2007, 22:41
I have before me a bottle of Old Potrero Pot Distilled 18th Century Style Spirit, made from 100% malted rye, and aged in uncharred oak barrels. I have before me a Manhattan that I have just mixed and I am going to give my thoughts about this.

Old Potrero is a spirit I credit as being very educational for me, a novice whisky drinker. I will tell you how I backed into this delightful education.

I had never understood drinking spirits of any kind until one day I went to the liquor store (Beacon Liquors on 76th and Broadway in Manhattan, long may it prosper) and decided I wanted to try a sipping whisky. At this time of my life I was playing a lot of fingerstyle blues on my electric guitars. I thought whisky might rough up my voice enough to sing. But I didn't like Jack Daniels, it was too harsh for me.

I noticed that there was a bottle of "Jack Daniels Single Barrel." Honestly the large wooden cork attracted my attention. Then I read the label and it pointed out that the character of the individual barrel lent uniqueness to the distillate. Long story short, I took a bottle home and was an immediate convert - I must've got a really good barrel!

I branched out next into bourbon; I took home a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year because the price was right and I liked the Eagle, because I like America and the Eagle is our bird here in the USA.

I was an immediate convert at that time. I noticed that bourbon carried a sweetness very different than the maple flavor of Tennessee whisky. I also noticed that Eagle Rare had a "zing" to it that the JD completely lacked. This "zing" would numb your tongue in higher doses; in lower doses it carried with it a malty flavor.

Well, when I tasted Old Potrero it all became clear. That "zing" must come from what Buffalo Trace assures me is the Minnesota rye, because Old Potrero is pretty much all zing. It's like what cinnamon or cloves do to your tongue, except without any of the holiday flavors/aromas of those spices. On the nose the powerful alcohol carries with it a tequila-like fresh vegetal aroma; I can taste the maltiness on the palate, and the finish is long and even, with what the wine folks call 'wet stone' and 'metallic' flavors.

Well now this is quite delicious, and I am assured that J.P. Morgan might have liked a bit of rye whisky zing to make up his Manhattan. Far more learned posters than I have written here about exactly what J.P. might have tasted, so I will not belabor the point. The next question is which vermouth.

Noilly Prat, whose dry vermouth is unexcelled in the Martini, makes a sweet vermouth that is passable. It contains prominent cloves, cinnamon, cassis, and bitter orange. The finish is sweet and cloying in a way that only too much cinnamon can be. Cinzano brings a distinctly different palette of flavors; I taste star anise and wormwood, the heavy bitterness offset by cane-sugary sweetness.

We take two parts Old Potrero and one part Cinzano and shake over ice made from purified water. The result is poured into a chilled glass. Angostura bitters are omitted. When you have gone to this degree of trouble to select the delicate flavor notes of your preferred ingredients, why mask them with the extraordinarily powerful flavor of gentian?

A Mezetta "maraschino" cherry is added; while its benzaldehyded, metabisulfited, Allura-Reddened corpse is out of place, we have yet to find any alternative. (Recommendations greatly solicited and appreciated.)

The result is greater than the sum of its parts. Sweetness and bitterness in equal measure, with the body and strength of the malt grain as a foundation, and exotic aromatics to be found in every corner of the beverage, from the first sip on the tip of the tongue, to the lurking aftertastes that continue to delight well after the glass is empty.

This is a very good way to take your evening's refreshment. If the gentle reader does not find that I am completely insane, I would welcome his opinions and insight.

CrispyCritter
01-09-2007, 19:45
A Mezetta "maraschino" cherry is added; while its benzaldehyded, metabisulfited, Allura-Reddened corpse is out of place, we have yet to find any alternative. (Recommendations greatly solicited and appreciated.)


I recently came across a jar of cherries with the Michter's brand name on them. These are Balaton (http://www.hrt.msu.edu/Balaton.html) cherries, native to Hungary but now being grown in Michigan. They are tart, zippy cherries, not at all like the typical so-called "maraschino" that isn't.

The ingredient list on the label is quite simple: "Balaton cherries, water, high-fructose corn syrup." Well, HFCS isn't the greatest thing around, but it isn't the worst... the ingredient list on a jar of Collins cocktail cherries goes like this: "Cherries, water, corn syrup, sugar, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, Red 40, sulfur dioxide."

They are a dark purplish, rather delicate, and smaller than your typical Collins cherry - and they don't have stems. Nonetheless, they are mighty good in a Manhattan!

scratchline
01-09-2007, 21:03
Try these:

http://www.markyscaviar.com/shop/customer/product.php?productid=16715&cat=643&page=1

I think you'll be happy.

-Mike

afisher
01-10-2007, 19:35
Call me a troglodyte, but I don't hold with no fruit salad in my Manhattan.

Eagle
01-10-2007, 20:14
Crispy and Mike, thanks so much. I'm going to track these cherries down and try them!

afisher: Ok, you're a troglodyte. ;) Some folks like their Manhattan with a lemon twist or even straight up naked, that's all OK by me!

Are there other sweet vermouths I should be trying? Martini and Rossi is a no-go. Lillet Rouge, maybe?

scratchline
01-10-2007, 22:02
Vya. Definitely a must-try.

-Mike

BobA
01-11-2007, 11:24
Call me a troglodyte, but I don't hold with no fruit salad in my Manhattan.


I don't like the cherry either. My favorite version is with orange bitters, which (wihtout the cherry) the recipes on the home page seems to call a Trilby, IIRC.

Bob

CrispyCritter
01-11-2007, 19:14
Lately, I've been using Noilly Prat red vermouth. When that bottle is finished, I have a bottle of Carpano Antica Formula that I'll try. Given that I like Punt e Mes, I expect that Antica Formula ought to be just fine.

If you want a blast of bitters, Punt e Mes does the trick nicely - though it's worth using it at 5:1 instead of 3:1 - or adding a splash of maraschino liqueur to turn it into a Red Hook.

I'd heartily second the recommendation for Vya as well - but it's expensive and hard to get.

Solomon2
01-16-2007, 18:02
Old Portrero is a marvelous drink, one of my friends brought a bottle back from San Francisco and poured me some. After the first delicious sip, I then added a single drop of water as he instructed. Glorious! Someday, perhaps, I'll work up the courage and money to buy a bottle.

chickenfried
01-17-2007, 16:10
A fun side by side are the Anchor 19th century style single malt straight rye whiskey and the 18th century style single malt spirit. I believe the only difference is the use of uncharred vs charred oak barrels. For me the spirit had a flavor I can't place. But it was very noticeable it was the only thing you'd taste so I didn't enjoy it that much. The rye whiskey had the same flavor but it was more subdued, and had other competing flavors. I enjoyed the rye whisky a lot more.

Eagle
01-22-2007, 00:37
I found a wonderful kind of cherry: Princess brand cherries, packed by Johnson Foods in Sunnyside, Washington. They are all natural, with fruit and vegetable colors and flavors. Not so bright red as the usual kind, but they taste better.

I have been making my Manhattan with the 18th c. Old Potrero Spirit, and I have simply fallen in love with this cocktail made this way. The rye adds a sweet malty bready aroma and flavor that is rather one-dimensional when sipped, but forms a wonderful foundation on which to pile the exotic flavors of the vermouth and the bitters.

I have in front of me just now a Manhattan made with the Black Maple Hill 23 yo rye bottling, and as you'd expect the complicated flavors of that whiskey don't lend themselves well to mixing. I will have to sit down with the BMH 23 and some of my Buffalo Trace whiskies and do a careful tasting one of these days when my palate is clean.

Edward_call_me_Ed
01-22-2007, 03:02
Just now I am drinking a Manhattan made with one part ETL, one part Evan William's 15, one part VWFRR 12 Old Time Rye, 0.5 part Noilly Pratt Sweet Vermouth, Three drops of Orange Bitters, and one drop aromatic bitters. No water, no ice, no cherry. Bliss.

Ed

cowdery
01-25-2007, 22:12
When they first came out, I found the Old Potrero products interesting but not something you would really want to drink, unless you're into things like grappa or slivovitz. They've gotten much better, especially the older one of the two ryes, which actually tastes like rye whiskey now, though still young, obviously. I had it blind and was very pleasantly surprised. It tasted like a real whiskey.

For the price, though, you still have to consider it a novelty.

eje
01-26-2007, 15:58
A fun side by side are the Anchor 19th century style single malt straight rye whiskey and the 18th century style single malt spirit. I believe the only difference is the use of uncharred vs charred oak barrels. For me the spirit had a flavor I can't place. But it was very noticeable it was the only thing you'd taste so I didn't enjoy it that much. The rye whiskey had the same flavor but it was more subdued, and had other competing flavors. I enjoyed the rye whisky a lot more.

The 19th Century uses charred new oak. The 18th Century uses a mix of toasted once used and new oak barrels. I believe the 18th Century is also a younger whiskey.