Having amassed a ridiculous supply of bourbon and rye, an extensive library of cocktail books, and a deep bench of liqueurs and mixers, I'm starting this thread to centralize discussion of cocktails built on the bourbon and rye foundation and on the outside chance that a Great American Whiskey Cocktail remains to be discovered.
Up front, I'll suggest that there are five classic whiskey cocktails: the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, the Sour, the Sazerac and the Julep. Within these five, the variations are endless when you consider the differences among individual whiskies, vermouths, bitters, etc. With the Julep even the quality of the ice becomes essential to the finished drink. Hence, my purchase of a vintage ice crusher. So...
I'll kick things off with some observations on the Kentucky Bourbon Festival's official drink for 2007: the Fashionable Manhattan. Obviously a hybrid of the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned, it could just as easily be labeled the Fashionable Manhazerac as the technique of coating the glass with the bitters and citrus oil is stylistically similar to coating the Sazerac glass with absinthe. I had actually first seen this cocktail demonstrated on the At Brown's Bar podcast:
Last night, I mixed a couple of these using 8 yr. Old Fitz 1849 bourbon and Carpano Antica. In one I substituted ruby red grapefruit for the orange. I found the grapefruit variation more subtle and balanced than the orange, although both were sophisticated, complex cocktails. Given the protracted shaking time, 45 sec to 1 min, I also think a higher proof bourbon might be preferable. Something like an Old Grand-Dad Bonded to add more rye to the mix.
Another interesting substitution would be Amer Picon for the bitters. It's distinctive citrus flavor would be a fine addition, I think. BTW, if anyone comes across any Amer Picon, buy it! Buy all of it! If you don't want it, pm me. It is a fantastic ingredient and the dearest, rarest dusty I've been lucky enough to find. Some of you guys near Bakersfield, Ca, help me out.
All-in-all, I give my attempt at the Fashionable Manhattan, a solid B+. A cocktail worthy of the Bourbon Festival and deserving of further exploration.
Tomorrow I'll consider David Embury's Millionaire, but for now I'll just stick with my WT Rye Manhattan.