By Steve Szczeblowski -
Gentlemen, I’m here to sing the praises of my favorite drink, my go-to, my default, aka ‘The King of Cocktails’, The Manhattan. Easy to make, packs a wallop, and projects the perfect balance of suave sophistication and workman-like simplicity. And yes, it’s what your grandparents drank (so what?)
Mysteriously appearing in late 19th century New York, the Manhattan has thrived and survived, limping through the Vodka-dominated ‘Fern Bar’ era of the 70s and the know-nothing beer/wine cooler/Jagerbomb Dark Ages of the 80s and 90s to emerge as a wellspring of the new craft cocktail/speakeasy movement.
The power of the Manhattan is in its proportions, which provided a boilerplate for most classic American cocktails that followed. This 2:1 or 2:1:1(for a 3rd ingredient, often citrus juice) proportion is repeated in the classic Martini, the Side Car and the Margarita. 2 parts Bourbon or Rye, 1 part sweet vermouth, plus a dash or two of bitters. And no, you do not “need” to use Rye, which is undergoing an incredible revival in popularity.
When it comes to choosing your Bourbon, choose something smooth: the Canadian blended works OK, the Tennessee Whiskey, not so much. A fine choice that’s readily available is Maker’s Mark. When it comes to Ryes, I find the bargain Old Overholt an excellent choice. As for the sweet vermouth, don’t cheap out, the finer brands will make a difference. Bitters? Good old Angostura is the norm, though other bitters can make an interesting diversion.
The best part of the bargain? All booze, no mixer, and less of a chance for the bartender to water it down. Order it “up” and you’re set!