what is it? i am confused...judging from posts in the thread, it seems to be either a bottled whiskey or a homemade blend for cocktails. i don't drink a lot of cocktails.
what is it? i am confused...judging from posts in the thread, it seems to be either a bottled whiskey or a homemade blend for cocktails. i don't drink a lot of cocktails.
The Sazerac is a traditional New Orleans cocktail, said to be America's first. My technique, which is somewhat simplified from the original way to prepare it:
Put about two ounces of rye whiskey (I usually use WT, Rittenhouse, or Sazerac 6yo) into a shaker with some ice. Put a couple dashes of Peychaud's Bitters (mandatory) and a couple of dashes of orange bitters or Angostura (optional, I usually use orange) into the shaker, along with a teaspoon of sugar syrup. Stir gently, and let chill. Take an 3-1/2 oz. Old Fashioned glass or similar small glass, and coat the interior with 1/4 teaspoon of Herbsaint or other pastis (e.g. Pernod or Pontarlier-Anis, or, if you can get it, a proper absinthe, not Hill's). Optionally, shake out the excess pastis (I don't do so). Strain the whiskey/sugar/bitters mix into the glass. Take a section of lemon peel, and twist it over the glass so the droplets of oil fall into the mix, and rub the peel against the rim of the glass. Drink and enjoy!
Other variations: use cognac instead of whiskey, as was done before the Civil War, or a cognac/bourbon mix. If you can't find pastis or absinthe, another anise-based liquor, such as sambuca or ouzo, could be substituted.
There is a premade bottled Sazerac, prepared by the Sazerac Co. (which also owns Buffalo Trace and Peychaud's, not coincidentally), which states on the bottle that it uses a brandy/bourbon mix. It's good, but I usually add one more dash of Peychaud's if I drink it.
Thanks for the info. That doesn't sound to bad, although not up my alley so to speak, but my wife would enjoy that as she loves that type of drink. Gives me an excuse to return to the package store to pick up some more ingredients....
Well, it is Friday night, and instead of mixing a second all-whiskey blend, I decided to do the Big Apple (Manhattan).
The whiskey base: Beam's Choice from the 70's, 13 years old.
The vermouth: Italian Stock red vermouth.
Fillip: light dash Grand Marnier (for the orange effect I like in whiskey cocktails).
Shake it well on the rocks and pour neat.
It has a very round, old-fashioned taste, as if I had this in 1958 (I envision) on the Upper East Side of New York City, chatting with publishers or diplomats or something. "Breakfast at Tiffany's is a lovely, revelatory novel, Truman Capote can write like an angel, but somehow I think that guy Jack Kerouac is the future...".
Gary Regan, the author who introduced me to the Manhattan via his Book of Bourbonsome ten years ago, has written a nice article in the San Francisco Chronicle on this king of cocktails.
Since these online articles often disappear, I will append it here (in two parts, due to its length), but the formatting is better online, and it's easier to read.
The Manhattan project: A bartender spills his secrets on the king of cocktails
Gary Regan, Special to The Chronicle
Friday, September 21, 2007
The dry gin martini is often heralded as the king of cocktails, but it's the Manhattan that's the true sovereign of the V-shaped glass. The martini, a mere pretender to the throne, was far more interesting prior to Prohibition - when vermouth made up a full third of the drink and it just wasn't a martini without orange bitters. The Manhattan, on the other hand, is a drink to be reckoned with.
At first glance the Manhattan looks like such a simple affair - whiskey, sweet vermouth and a few dashes of bitters. I'm the first to admit that it's not too hard to make a halfway decent version of this cocktail, but a truly great Manhattan can be made only by someone who truly understands the magnitude of what's at hand. Indeed, the mark of a bartender who is truly worth his or her salt lies solidly in his or her interpretation of the Manhattan.
Over the past century or so, while the martini has morphed into an excuse to drink straight gin or vodka, the Manhattan has stood its ground. There have been a few tweaks in the formula over the years - you might have gotten a couple of dashes of curacao and/or maraschino liqueur in the Manhattan had you ordered it in, say, 1880, and around a century later some folk started to omit the bitters, a sin for which they will no doubt pay come Judgment Day - but the vermouth in the Manhattan has remained an integral part of the drink all along.
With the notable exception of a 22-year-old newcomer to the bar in O'Hare Airport last year, to my knowledge there isn't a bartender on the face of the earth who would make a Manhattan with less than, say, 25 percent vermouth. The lad in Chicago, by the by, now understands the drink fully and is unlikely to risk boring lectures from patrons who order the drink in the future.
It is virtually a San Francisco tradition to knock back a Manhattan at the well-worn bar of the Tadich Grill, a restaurant with roots that stretch back to the Gold Rush. Mike Buich, Tadich's owner, allows his bartenders to personalize their Manhattans to a certain extent, but they must be made with three parts bourbon, one part vermouth and just one dash of Angostura bitters. (Although I'm more likely to make my Manhattan with two parts whiskey to one part vermouth, and I'm known to be a hog on the bitters front, the ratios used at Tadich can work, providing the right whiskey is used, and providing it's married to the correct vermouth.) Buich also mandates that his bartenders stir their Manhattans over ice long enough for them to be very cold when they reach a customer's lips.
That's another piece of the equation - stirring the drink for a minimum of 20 seconds is mandatory if it's perfection you seek.
There are a few theories surrounding the birth of the Manhattan, including an oft-told tale about the drink being created in 1874 at New York's Manhattan Club, but the one that has a ring of truth to it, to my ears at least, can be found in "Valentine's Manual of New York." The 1923 book contains a story written by a certain William F. Mulhall, a bartender who plied his trade at New York's Hoffman House in the 1880s. "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," wrote Mulhall. I know of no other citation that carries as much weight, and it was written by a bartender, so . . .
Who was Black? Darned if I know. How, though, you might reasonably be expected to ask, could a simple affair such as the Manhattan possibly be the benchmark of a great bartender? The answer lies in the subtleties of the drink. Let's explore its structure.
The base of the Manhattan is whiskey, but which whiskey will you use? Rye? Bourbon? Canadian blended? And after making that decision, which bottling will you call for? Some brands of whiskey are far bolder than others, and some pour from the bottle with hints of this herb or that spice that can't be found in any other brand. One is full of fruit and cinnamon, the next reminiscent of oak and old leather. Which one suits your palate when it comes to Manhattans? It's a personal thing.
Straight rye whiskey was the liquor of choice when the Manhattan was created and it's still the way to go if you want to experience the drink as it was meant to be sipped. Rye whiskey will bring some perfume notes into play, and it usually sports a lean backbone. Sturdy, but lean all the same. Rye stands up to vermouth very well indeed, but within the category, ryes differ one from the next. Make sure you know your chosen bottling well before you add the vermouth.
Bourbon is another ideal choice for a Manhattan, and until more ryes became available to us in recent years, bourbon was very often the whiskey of choice in a Manhattan. It's made predominantly with corn so of course it's sweeter than rye - think cornbread versus rye bread - but most bourbons have enough character to stand tall in a Manhattan. Either of these American whiskeys will serve you well in the drink, then, providing you choose the right brand for your taste and marry your whiskey to the correct vermouth. More on that shortly.
It's the job of the vermouth to soothe the savage soul of the whiskey in a Manhattan cocktail, but it must allow the spirit to be heard, too. And here's where the balancing act begins, where a little magic comes into play. Vermouth is an aromatized wine - wine flavored by various botanicals. Ingredients such as hyssop, coriander, juniper, cloves, chamomile, orange peel, rose petals, calamus root, elderflowers, gentian, ginger, allspice and horehound are not uncommon on the vermouth maker's shopping list. The spiced wine is then fortified with a little brandy to bring it up to about 18 percent alcohol by volume, thus adding just a little gusto to the bottle.
Recipes for vermouths, though, differ drastically from one brand to the next. Martini & Rossi offers a fine sweet vermouth. It's light, herbaceous, fairly delicate in structure, and it can be used in reasonably large quantities in the Manhattan, depending on the whiskey being used. The sweet version of Noilly Prat's brand of vermouth, on the other hand, is fairly big, round, fruity and bold, so it's important to be judicious with this brand. And Vya sweet vermouth, a California creation, is a veritable giant. Something to be used very sparingly indeed if you don't want the whiskey to drown in the glass. There are many other vermouths out there, too, each with merits all its own. Discover which one works best for you. (For mine, see "I'll make Mahattans - my way.")
Making Manhattans, then, is a mix-and-match affair. Choose this whiskey for that vermouth and change brands when necessary. Are you beginning to get the picture? Two parts whiskey to one part vermouth is nothing more than a guideline. And this is why only those with an intimate knowledge of their ingredients can hope to construct a masterful Manhattan.
Bitters, too, are part of the equation when making Manhattans. Which style suits you best? Angostura? Orange? Peychaud's? This, I believe, is a very personal thing, and for me it's a question that's quite easily answered. Let's say 99 percent of the time, I go for Angostura. The cinnamon notes in this elixir work well with almost any whiskey you can name, and they add such complexity to the drink that it's seldom I use any other brand when I make the king of cocktails.
Orange bitters can work well in Manhattans, too, and if this is the path you prefer to tread I suggest you be liberal when shaking. I tend to double up if I use orange bitters. Peychaud's bitters are a different kettle of fish entirely. This spicy bottling from New Orleans brings anise into play, and thus drastically alters the character of a Manhattan. Peychaud's yields a cocktail that's very pleasant, but it leaves you wondering if perhaps it might be better to give this drink another name.
As for garnishing the Manhattan, I must confess that I'm not really the garnishing type. A lemon twist doesn't work for me at all in this cocktail since the scent of citrus is the last thing I want to come between me and my beloved cocktail come five in the afternoon.
And when it comes to maraschino cherries or homemade brandied cherries for that matter, I side with Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame, even though she was a martini drinker and was referring to olives when she said that they simply take up too much room in the glass. I'm liberal, though, when it comes to the preferences of others, and I'll happily add whatever fruit or vegetable any friend of mine desires when I whip up Manhattans at my place. From my point of view their desire for food in a drink leaves more whiskey in the bottle for yours truly.
In 2007, you can visit almost any decent cocktail bar in the country and you'll likely find new drinks that call for rye or bourbon, sweet vermouth in one form or another, and a dash of this or a tot of that, which has been added by the bartender to make his or her own variation on the Manhattan. The Manhattan is the perfect cocktail to spur ingenuity in creative souls. San Francisco boasts many such drinks, and variations on the Manhattan theme are currently crossing the mahogany in a lot of the city's top cocktail joints.
The vermouth is the variable in the Barrel No. 40 Manhattan being served at Nopa. The whiskey in this one is Nopa's very own barrel of Hancock's Reserve, a grand old bourbon. Neyah White, Nopa's head bartender, chose Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, a distinctive bottling that boasts hints of vanilla, "because the whiskey was fairly sweet by itself and didn't need all the sugar of Martini & Rossi or Vya," he says.
Perbacco, on California Street, offers Manhattans made with Carpano Antica Formula, too, but they add a splash of Cynar, an artichoke-based Italian bitter aperitif, to the glass instead of any of the more traditional bitters. It's an interesting twist on the classic.
Josey Packard, a bartender at Alembic, mixes straight rye whiskey with Angostura bitters and Punt e Mes vermouth to make the bar's signature Manhattan. Despite its spicy profile, Punt e Mes "represents one of the best expressions of the Italian style of vermouth available," she says. In barspeak, by the by, "Italian" is used when referring to sweet vermouth whereas all dry vermouth is "French," no matter where either was made. It harks back to each version being originally created in those two countries respectively.
Some bartenders have gone the other way, ditching the vermouth entirely. Duggan McDonnell at Cantina Bebidas on Sutter Street, uses Cynar instead of vermouth, and the drink is finished with two house-made products, a pomegranate molasses syrup, and McDonnell's Casablanca bitters, which include cinnamon, saffron and other North African flavors.
At Bourbon & Branch you can try a Black Manhattan made with Eagle Rare 10-year-old bourbon, Averna, another bitter Italian aperitif, and a couple of dashes of bartender Todd Smith's homemade cherry-coffee bitters. And H. Joseph Ehrmann, owner of Elixir, created the Naphattan Cocktail. Instead of vermouth, he dissolved some light brown sugar into a Shiraz, then added it to 100-proof Rittenhouse rye whiskey. A pretty novel approach, huh?
The best Manhattans slide easily down the throat. They linger on the palate, dance on the tongue and tickle the tonsils for a good long while. Manhattans, when made by a master of the craft, can produce euphoria in discriminating souls, and they've been known to tempt angels to return to physical manifestation, just for one more sip.
Martinis, on the other hand, get you drunk quickly.
Classic riffs on the Manhattan
The dry gin martini has spawned few variations over the years, but few of them are notable. Cite the dry vodka martini and you'll get no more than a smirk from me, and although the dirty martini, made with the simple addition of a little olive brine, can be a handsome affair, use two drops too little brine and there's no point to the drink, and one drop too much can kill the cocktail entirely. The Third Degree, a martini with a spot of absinthe substitute such as Pernod or Ricard, can be quite magnificent, though, so the drink can be used as a jumping-off point for decent variations. But the martini is not nearly as versatile as the Manhattan.
Consider the Rob Roy, for instance. It's just a Manhattan made with Scotch as opposed to American whiskey, but with the right Scotch this can be a glorious quaff. Peychaud's bitters, by the way, work very well indeed with Scotch, and I often add just one dash of these to the mix when I make a Rob Roy.
The Paddy cocktail is a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey; with the right bottling and with liberal dashes of Angostura, this, too, is a desirable dram. Add Benedictine to the Rob Roy and you have yourself a Bobby Burns, a drink created at the Waldorf Astoria in the days prior to Prohibition. With a small tot of Grand Marnier you can transform a Paddy cocktail into a Dubliner, a drink for which I claim responsibility.
A Manhattan made with dry vermouth is known, not surprisingly, as a dry Manhattan, but add both styles of aromatized wine and the drink becomes a perfect Manhattan, "perfect," in cocktailian terms, being the descriptor always added to cocktail names when equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth are called for. Neither perfect martinis nor martinis made with sweet vermouth are called for at any bar I know of, but the one martini variation that's made a comeback of late, and is a very desirable drink indeed, is the Martinez, made with gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and a dash or two of Angostura. It's a sad day when a drink's mother outshines her at the ball.
- Gary Regan
I'll make Manhattans - my way
I typically make my Manhattans with two parts spicy bourbon - think Wild Turkey, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams Black Label and Bulleit - one part Noilly Prat sweet vermouth, and too much Angostura bitters for most people's palates. About six dashes, if you please.
Truth be told, when it comes to Manhattans I never actually measure my ingredients. The same is not true if I'm mixing margaritas or presenting pisco sours - I'm pretty precise when making those cocktails and more. But Kevin Noone, the Irish bartender who showed me the ropes behind the bar in New York more than 30 years ago, taught me to feel my way through the Manhattan, so I throw caution to the wind and trust the universe to guide my hand when I make my daily reward. The universe has been good to me thus far.
- Gary Regan
Gary Regan is the author of "The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender's Craft." E-mail him at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page F - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Thanks for posting that, Jeff!
From back in the day!
I always enjoy Gary's articles. Since Fall is now officially here, Manhattan season has now begun for me. 4:1 Old Grand Dad BIB to Noilly Pratt and a dash of Fee's orange bitters make a really good drink, I think -- especially if it's stirred so that it's extremely cold. I just use a lot of ice and swirl it around my shaker for a long, long time. I have to hold the shaker in a dish-towel otherwise my fingers freeze.
Slighty off topic but maybe amusing to some...I bartended for a brief time after college. The bar I worked at (Jungle Jims) had a big liquor wall with 3 sections of maybe 10 shelves, with a rolling ladder to reach the top. On weekends it always seemed groups of girls would come in and order one shot of "whatever is in the middle section, 7th row up, 8th bottle from the right", they would then pass the shot around and taste it and giggle. Fun is fun, but when we were getting busy it got to be hastle. We had a bottle of Cynar, no matter what bottle they were supposed to get, thats the drink they got. It looked nasty and smelled worse...game over...gin and tonic please!Quote:
but they add a splash of Cynar, an artichoke-based Italian bitter aperitif, to the glass instead of any of the more traditional bitters. It's an interesting twist on the classic
This guys use was much more creative than mine...to think you can actually use it to improve a drink..huh.