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Best Manhattan variations?


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#1 skbohler

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 07:16 AM

Hello all,

The Manhattan is one of my favorite, well-balanced cocktails.

I've tried some variations that worked out well (high-proof Bourbon, Punt Y Mes, marnier soaked figs, etc.)

But, what's your favorite "enhancement" on this noble libation?

Steve

#2 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 07:35 AM

Far and away it weould have to be the McKinley's Delight, aka Remember the Maine, from Charles Baker. To your 3:1 Manhattan (100 proof whiskey, please) add a quarter ounce of Cherry Heering and a half barspoon or so of Absinthe. If you ask me, this is the only Manhattan variation that can actually compete with the original.
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#3 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 07:45 AM

I'm partial to the Red Hook (2 oz Rittenhouse BIB, 1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino, 1/2 oz Punt e Mes, twist), myself.
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#4 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 08:09 AM

I'm partial to the Red Hook (2 oz Rittenhouse BIB, 1/2 oz Luxardo Maraschino, 1/2 oz Punt e Mes, twist), myself.


Red Hook technically a Brooklyn variation though :wink:
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#5 slkinsey

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 08:15 AM

I suppose it depends on what you consider a "Manhattan variation." If we're talking about cocktails that are boozy, whiskey-forward, bitter/herbal stirred cocktails, the possibilities are endless. But that seems like an overly wide field to me.

Is the Brooklyn a "Manhattan variation"? How about the Van Brunt? Why not the Vieux Carré? Or a Diamondback (and its seemingly endless riffs and variations)?


In my opinion, once you start adding flavorings (maraschino, Chartreuse, absinthe, etc.) that takes the flavor profile meaningfully away from the universe of "whiskey, vermouth and bitters" -- then you don't have a "Manhattan variation" any more. This makes, for example, the Little Italy (rye, Cynar, sweet vermouth) a Manhattan variation, but not the Red Hook (rye, Punt e Mes, maraschino). The Red Hook is properly understood as a variation on the Brooklyn (bourbon, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon, maraschino) with the Punt e Mes replacing the sweet vermouth and Amer Picon.
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#6 daisy17

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 08:23 AM

You should pose this question to Phil Ward. He's made me a million different manhattan variations over the years (and why I didn't write them down is beyond me). My favorites include amaro (instead of or in addition to the sweet vermouth).

I just had a Little Italy (Audrey Saunders) the other night - delicious.

2 ounces rye
1/2 ounce Cynar
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth

#7 skbohler

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 08:28 AM

I agree that one can't go too far without the Manhattan becoming something else.

If I went with Rye, Carpano antica, bitters, and 2 drops of, say, fino sherri, is that too far?

Regardless, I've love to hear of Manhattan variations and Manhattan-similar cocktails (very similar).

Steve

#8 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 08:31 AM

The Little Italy is a great drink. As for the Red Hook, I'm not one for stickling about taxonomies -- and Maraschino makes me break rules all the time. But if you take Steve's OP (and not the topic title), I submit that the drink is a fine "enhancement," if not technically a variation.

I'm at work and don't have the book handy, but isn't there something like "Brown with Vermouth and Bitters" in the Rogue cocktails book?
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#9 KatieLoeb

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 12:03 PM

I made a Manhattan with a bit of the Cinnamon Chai tea-infused vermouth from Phil Ward's Mother's Ruin Punch recipe. Served with brandied cherries. A righteous libation indeed. :smile:

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#10 eje

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 12:22 PM

As much as I enjoy Brooklyn-ish cocktails made with Sweet Vermouth, it is, as I was recently reminded, good to remember The actual Brooklyn Cocktail calls for Dry Vermouth.
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#11 daisy17

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 12:36 PM

As much as I enjoy Brooklyn-ish cocktails made with Sweet Vermouth, it is, as I was recently reminded, good to remember The actual Brooklyn Cocktail calls for Dry Vermouth.


I was going to say that too. I feel like if you consider this, a Red Hook has about as much in common with a Manhattan as a Brooklyn.

I agree that one can't go too far without the Manhattan becoming something else.

If I went with Rye, Carpano antica, bitters, and 2 drops of, say, fino sherri, is that too far?


My vote is you've gone too far when you make something that you don't like or can't drink, not when you might be riffing on a Brooklyn instead of a Manhattan. Don't get too hung up on this!

#12 slkinsey

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 01:03 PM


As much as I enjoy Brooklyn-ish cocktails made with Sweet Vermouth, it is, as I was recently reminded, good to remember The actual Brooklyn Cocktail calls for Dry Vermouth.

I was going to say that too. I feel like if you consider this, a Red Hook has about as much in common with a Manhattan as a Brooklyn.

The main thing, I think, is that the guy who created the Red Hook says hs was doing it inspired by the Brooklynm, with Punt e Mes standing in for both the winey vermouthyness contributed by dry vermouth and the bitterness/sweetness/richness contributed by Amer Picon in the original. If you try them side-by-side, there is a definite kinship among the two that is not present among the Red Hook and the Manhattan.

Both the Brooklyn and Red Hook are whiskey plus winey/herbal plus maraschino (plus some extra bitterness), whereas the Manhattan is simply whiskey plus winey/herbal. Take the maraschino out of either the Red Hook or the Brooklyn, and you have a Manhattan. So clearly the maraschino creates a kind of dividing line.

This is what I mean in saying that you can't go too far afield from the primal, elementary formula for the Manhattan before you're off in a different drink altogether. Adding an aromatic rinse of something? Sure. Subbing in some amaro (more bitter) sherry (less bitter) or other reasonably similar product for all or some of the vermouth? Sure. Adding a little bit of certain liqueurs? Maybe. Depends on the liqueur. A touch of curacao still keeps it a Manhattan. Green Chartreuse, not so much. Rye whiskey with Punt e Mes and maraschino is no more a kind of Manhattan than gin with vermouth bianco and maraschino is a kind of Martini.

If I went with Rye, Carpano antica, bitters, and 2 drops of, say, fino sherri, is that too far?

I think you make what you like, of course. That's the most important.

To my mind, there is a certain kinship among fortified wines (which includes both vermouth and sherry) so that they make suitable partners for a drink that can still be within the family of a "Manhattan variation." Even a tawny port might bring something interesting to the table. In a way, these fortified wines are going in the opposite direction that we go in using something such as Punt e Mes -- in the direction of less bitter/herbal as opposed to more bitter/herbal. Although you could, I suppose, balance the drink back to the bitter/herbal side with bitters.

Edited by slkinsey, 30 November 2009 - 01:08 PM.

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#13 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 02:27 PM

Both the Brooklyn and Red Hook are whiskey plus winey/herbal plus maraschino (plus some extra bitterness), whereas the Manhattan is simply whiskey plus winey/herbal. Take the maraschino out of either the Red Hook or the Brooklyn, and you have a Manhattan. So clearly the maraschino creates a kind of dividing line.


Jerry Thomas and his contemporaries might disagree. The very earliest Manhattan Recipes tend to include Maraschino as often as they don't.
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#14 slkinsey

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 02:42 PM

Right, but it's evolved away from that a long time ago. There's also the question, of course, as to just how much maraschino they might have included (how much is a dash?) -- and just what that maraschino might have tasted like. Not to mention that those Manhattans tended to be 2:1 in vavor of the vermouth.

Many of the oldest Martini recipes called for curacao, Old Tom and/or simple syrup. But I think we'd agree that equal parts Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth along with some curacao, simple syrup and bitters, while tasty, would fall outside of the modern/classic definition of Martini.
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#15 della206

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 05:22 PM

I like them with Southern Comfort, 100 proof if I can get it.

#16 NadyaDuke

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 07:34 AM

I didn't really LIKE Manhattans until I discovered Rye. A bartender at El Gaucho in Seattle three or four years ago recommended substituting about 1/4 of the vermouth with Dubonnet. I liked it at the time but haven't tried it since I discovered Rye. Hmmm.....

#17 oneidaone

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 10:47 AM

I was just at the Strip Club in St. Paul, MN. Had two Manhattan's at lunch. The first featured bourbon and their homemade bitters very traditional.
The second was a rye that had been infused with kabocha squash that was just awesome. It was the lunch of amazing proportions all around!
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#18 vice

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Posted 01 December 2009 - 02:19 PM

I'm at work and don't have the book handy, but isn't there something like "Brown with Vermouth and Bitters" in the Rogue cocktails book?


That's probably the NY Brown and Stirred:

2 oz laphroaig
3/4 oz punt e mes
1/4 oz averna
orange twist
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#19 Splificator

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 12:02 PM

Would it be impermissibly curmudgeonly of me to suggest that the best variation is to just make the damn thing properly, with no monkey business or dashes of whatever's trendy?

Two parts rye, one part sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of Angostura, stirred and served up with a squeeze of lemon oil over the top. No variation ever mixed or mooted can beat that.
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#20 Ricky

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 12:31 PM

... No variation ever mixed or mooted can beat that.



I'm going to have to agree that a traditional Manhattan is one of my favorite cocktails. On the other hand an Euji Cocktail is pretty wonderful too, although much sweeter than the traditional.

2oz rye
1/2oz sweet vermouth
1/2oz tuaca
bit of simple syrup
3 dashed each angostura / peychauds
stir
flamed lemon peel garnish
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#21 bostonapothecary

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 01:17 PM

Would it be impermissibly curmudgeonly of me to suggest that the best variation is to just make the damn thing properly, with no monkey business or dashes of whatever's trendy?

Two parts rye, one part sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of Angostura, stirred and served up with a squeeze of lemon oil over the top. No variation ever mixed or mooted can beat that.


no offense but i'd say curmudgeonly. the manhattan as you described is often too high art. in the drink vermouth alone can be too complex for my mood sometimes... i love low art contrasts like a spoonful of apricot liqueur and/or punt e mes to add extra planes of dimensionality.

i don't think these acquired tastes can be grouped with trendy. vitamin water could be trendy but not anything with such intense directions of alcoholic power, sweetness, and spectrum of enigmatic contrasts.

i try variations to experience the work of an artist and see something abstracted in a new way. art starts with monkey business but the wrongness eventually gets overturned. frivolous novelty is pretty stimulating stuff.

its awesome how easily reproducible recipes often are. i can take in the same liquid experience as some artist in san fransisco or NYC, sampling their monkey business and closing the gap of how overly easy it is to take in other art. audio, visual, good or bad.

gastronomy (and cocktails as an important subset) are the frontier of art. drinks convey so much emotional response just in their acid, sugar structure alone. then there is so many untapped illusions of dimensionality through flavor contrasts. you can see the world abstracted in a new way with every drink.

i will say though gastronomy doesn't have enough theory or foundation. the abstract expressionist painter hans hoffman said "you can't move around until you know the landmarks" this means there are different levels of control and sympathy as an artist. hopefully i can find one someday that can give me an experience like the first manhattan or aviation ever served. raw & uncongealed.
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#22 KD1191

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Posted 05 December 2009 - 06:37 PM

I'm extremely partial to the Creole Cocktail:

1 1/2 oz Rye (prefer Rittenhouse BIB)
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouht (prefer Punt e Mes)
1/8 oz Amer Picon (hard to beat the Violet Hour's house product)
1/8 oz Benedictine

May have more in common with the Brooklyn than the Manhattan, but either way it's one of my favorites.
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#23 Chris Amirault

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 07:46 AM

I loves me Punt e Mes, but in this cocktail I feel it overwhelms the Benedictine and Amer Picon. I go with Martini & Rossi rosso -- and with an original bottle of Amer Picon, which I dole out in tiny amounts.
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#24 KD1191

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Posted 06 December 2009 - 09:08 PM

Just tried side-by-side Creoles with PeM and M&R being the only difference. I see where you're coming from, but I still prefer the PeM. Can't say I ever have a problem picking out the Benedictine in any cocktail I've had with it...this is no exception. It's possible our difference in preference is related to the Amer. I'll have to find a bottle of the real thing soon to test further. From doing a side by side tasting of the original Amer Picon against the Violet Hour's a few months ago, I recall that the VH product actually presents a more full bodied and pleasant aroma (to me) than the real thing, while the original had a slightly better overall flavor profile. Perhaps the VH Amer holds up better than the original in this drink. At this point, I can't be sure.

Edited by KD1191, 06 December 2009 - 09:30 PM.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

#25 Katie Meadow

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 04:15 PM

Two parts rye, one part sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of Angostura, stirred and served up with a squeeze of lemon oil over the top. No variation ever mixed or mooted can beat that.


Just want to say this thread inspired me to buy what I think is my first bottle of rye...ever. I grew up in Manhattan, but don't ever remember my parents making or drinking Manhattans, either with bourbon or rye. My husband and I typically drink straight Scotch or Gin cocktails, and I've never liked bourbon. Sorry, but it tastes frighteningly like the banana flavored antibiotic Augmentin. Somewhere I got the idea that a Manhattan was always made with bourbon.

We made the above described cocktail without the lemon oil, shaken briefly and poured into a martini glass. Delicious! Tell me, how does one squeeze lemon oil over the top? Would a lemon twist do the job?

We voted against buying any cherries for garnish, since BevMo had only the typical Shirley Temple variety and every time I eat one of those I feel like I shouldn't have.

#26 thirtyoneknots

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 12:42 AM

My husband and I typically drink straight Scotch or Gin cocktails, and I've never liked bourbon. Sorry, but it tastes frighteningly like the banana flavored antibiotic Augmentin. Somewhere I got the idea that a Manhattan was always made with bourbon.


Wait you're telling me there's an antibiotic out there that tastes like Bourbon?! I better call the doctor, think I feel a cold coming on...
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#27 MikeInSacto

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 10:34 AM

Where my wife comes from, the default Manhattan is made with brandy. I rather like them but I don't think they hold a candle to the rye version.

#28 campus five

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 02:56 PM

Favorite basic Manhattan iteration: 2:1 Rittenhouse 100pf to Carpano, 2 dashes Fee 2007 Whiskey Barrel bitters, lemon twist. (if I'm feeling spendy I'd go with the Van Winkle Rye, even over Saz 18 or Handy)

Favorite riffs on manhattan/brooklyns (that type of thing):
Red Hook (mentioned above)
Green Point - 2 rye, 1/2 green chartreuse, 1/2 punt e mes, dash orange bitters (recipes across the net vary on the bitters)
Weatherly - 2 rye, 1/2 cynar, 1/2 apperol, scant barspoon fernet, orange twist
Dewey D - 2 rye, 3/4 Lustau East India Sherry, 1/2 aperol, 1 dash Angostura, orange twist
Custer - 2 rye, 1/2 galliano, 3 barspoons cynar, 2 dashes each rhubarb and celery bitters, orange twist
Little Italy - (mentioned above)
Left Hand - 1.5 bourbon, 3/4 campari, 3/4 sweet vermouth, 2 dashes mole bitters, cherry
and my two tweaks of the Left Hand
Lemony - 2 rye, 3/4 campari, 3/4 sweet vermouth, lemon twist
Orangey - 2 rye, 3/4 campari, 3/4 sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Reagan's OB, orange twist

Too bad it's only 2pm, because now I feel like a cocktail.

Edited by campus five, 12 December 2009 - 02:58 PM.


#29 FireAarro

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Posted 12 December 2009 - 05:09 PM

The Left Hand is almost a Boulevardier, apart from the addition of bitters. The Boulevardier, and its associated variation the Old Pal, are both excellent. Use the extra dry style for the Old Pal though, like Cinzano, not something like Noilly.

#30 brinza

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:30 PM

Would it be impermissibly curmudgeonly of me to suggest that the best variation is to just make the damn thing properly, with no monkey business or dashes of whatever's trendy?

Two parts rye, one part sweet vermouth, a couple of dashes of Angostura, stirred and served up with a squeeze of lemon oil over the top. No variation ever mixed or mooted can beat that.

I've actually gained somewhat of a reputation among some of my friends and a few new acquaintances that I make really good Manhattans. Funny thing is, I don't really do anything out of the ordinary other than "to just make the damn thing properly" using the exact formula above. I suspect that a lot of people who have had Manhattans out have had been served cheap well bourbon (or--shudder--blended whiskey) and maybe a small dash of sweet vermouth, and no bitters. Therefore, they've never tasted a real Manhattan.

My idea of a variation is to try different bitters or different vermouths.

Edited by brinza, 15 December 2009 - 08:31 PM.

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